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New Mexico Lawyers Serving New Mexico's Legal Needs Since 1997

U.S. District Court for District of New Mexico retains case claiming hospital misconduct

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico decided in Williams v. Board of Regents of University of New Mexico, et. al. (No. CIV 13-0479 JB/WPL 2014) to retain jurisdiction of a case brought by the parents and conservator of a mentally-ill young man whose condition deteriorated after he was admitted to various hospitals and institutions owned or controlled by the defendants sued in this action. For a period of four months from January to April 2011, the young man was transferred to several facilities against the wishes of his conservator and his parents; furthermore, he was not given the psychotropic medicine which he was prescribed and did not receive appropriate treatment for his particular condition. At the end of the four-month period, he was ultimately diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, a psychotic disorder and traumatic brain injury.  He no longer could “engage in meaningful conversations with his mother”and “remained in a volatile mental state”in which he was “periodically dangerous to himself and to others.”

 

As a result, the plaintiffs raised the following claims in a suit filed in state court against these facilities and the agencies which control them: negligence, medical negligence, loss of consortium, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligence per se for violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which ensures public access to emergency services regardless of the ability to pay. Of these claims, only the EMTALA claim constitutes a federal cause of action. Congress enacted EMTALA “to create a new cause of action, generally unavailable under state tort law, for what amounts to failure to treat” and not to “duplicate preexisting legal protections.” Under this law, a participating hospital must conduct an initial medical examination to determine whether the patient is suffering from an emergency medical condition; if so, the hospital must stabilize the patient before transporting him or her elsewhere. Congress created this private cause of action to ensure compliance with these obligations.

 

The defendants moved to have the case removed to federal district court which ironically caused some of the defendants to waive 11th Amendment immunity. The plaintiffs wanted to have the case remanded to the court at New Mexico state level. But as the federal district court denied the remand, now the plaintiffs will proceed to prove their negligence claims, including the EMTALA claim, in the federal district court in New Mexico. 

 

The attorneys at the Law Office of George “Dave”Giddens, P.C. represent individuals in personal injury suits in New Mexico. Giddens, Gatton & Jacobus, P.C. is located at 10400 Academy Road N.E., Suite 350 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Call the office at (505) 633-6298 to set up an appointment or visit the firm’s website at giddenslaw.com for more information.

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