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Baber v. Hospital Corporation of America

977 F.2d 872 (1992)

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Baber v. Hospital Corporation of America

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

977 F.2d 872 (1992)

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Facts

Brenda Baber (plaintiff), accompanied by her brother, Barry, entered Raleigh General Hospital’s (RGH) (defendant) emergency department complaining of nausea, agitation, and believing she might be pregnant. She also had stopped taking her anti-psychosis medications and had recently been drinking. After an unsuccessful attempt to place Brenda in restraints, Dr. Richard Kline (defendant) examined her and ordered several lab tests, including a pregnancy test. He also gave her several sedative medications which failed to work. While roaming the emergency department, Brenda experienced a seizure and fell, hitting her head on a table and lacerating her scalp that required stitches to close. At that point, she was disoriented, restless, and anxious, which Kline believed to be linked to her psychiatric illness, paranoia, and alcohol withdrawal. Brenda was transferred to the psychiatric unit at Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital (BARH) where she had previously received treatment from Dr. Joseph Whelan (defendant) Kline did not believe Brenda’s head injury to be serious enough to warrant further observation at RGH. Barry Baber neither consented nor objected to the transfer. After being admitted directly to BARH, Brenda suffered a grand mal seizure. She was transferred back to the RGH to receive neurological treatment. She was comatose upon transfer and died the following day. Barry filed suit against Kline and Whelan, RGH, BARH, and the parent corporations of both hospitals for alleged violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). Baber contended that RGH had failed to give Brenda an appropriate medical screening and transferred her when she wasn’t stabilized, and that BARH had failed to screen her when she arrived at its psychiatric unit. The district court granted all the defendants summary judgment, the doctors on the ground that EMTALA did not create a private cause of action against individual doctors and HCA on the ground that if the hospitals were not liable, their parent corporation could not be either. Baber appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Williams, J.)

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