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Williams v. United States

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
242 F.3d 169 (2001)


Facts

Berlie White went to the emergency room due to respiratory problems at the Cherokee Indian Hospital (CIH), located on the Cherokee Reservation and operated by the United States Public Health Service (US PHS). The hospital was funded under the federal Indian Health Care Improvement Act that prohibited the hospital from treating non-Indians, except for emergency medical treatment in which treatment became discretionary. Federal employees at CIH refused to treat White or refill his oxygen tank because he was a non-Indian. They referred White to the Swain County Hospital, which was 10 miles away. When White arrived at Swain County Hospital he was in severe respiratory distress and died. Williams, the adminstratix for White (plaintiff), filed a complaint alleging that the USPHS run CIH (defendant) caused his death by refusing to provide access to any treatment. The United States filed a motion to dismiss the action, as well as other asserted claims. The district court dismissed the suit. Williams appealed to the court of appeals.

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Holding and Reasoning (Niemeyer, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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