HLD, v. 33, n. 10 (October 2005)
U.S. Court In Florida Says Billing
Collection Practices Do Not Constitute A Violation Of EMTALA
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida
dismissed a class action against a purported charitable hospital finding that the
plaintiff failed to establish federal question jurisdiction under the Emergency
Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) or the hospital's � 501(c)(3)
Plaintiff Wayne Nash brought this claim alleging that Lee Memorial
Hospital engaged in
aggressive and harmful billing collection practices stemming from emergency
medical treatment he received after breaking his leg in a boating
Recognizing that this was one of many class actions filed
nationwide on behalf of uninsured patients alleging that charitable hospitals
breach implied contracts with the government by engaging in practices
prejudicial to those with limited means, the court said it would follow the
uniform holdings of other courts in finding that plaintiff lacked standing.
"The plain language of Section 501 (c)(3)
lacks an indication that Congress intended to create a contract between the United States
and the entity upon which tax-exempt status is conferred," found the court.
Even if a contract existed, the court said the plaintiff would
still lack standing as a beneficiary of the contract since 501(c)(3) had no express private right of action nor did the
court see any reason to imply one.
The court next found plaintiff's EMTALA claims were time-barred
under the two-year statute of limitations periods. After noting that EMTALA
provides a private right of action for those individuals who suffer "personal
harm," the court rejected plaintiff's argument that the hospital's billing
collection activity could toll the limitations period or even constitute a
violation of EMTALA in the first place.
Even if the action was not time-barred, the court said it
would still dismiss the action since plaintiff had failed to allege that he suffered
a "personal harm" that could be compensated under Florida law as a "personal injury."
The court also declined to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over the pendant state law claims, dismissing them without
prejudice for reassertion in state court.
Nash v. Lee Mem'l Health Sys., No. 204CV369FTM29DNF (M.D. Fla. Aug. 25, 2005).