August 18, 2016
Cynthia Glaskox arrived at the George County Hospital Emergency Room in the early morning hours of January 12, 2014. Upon arrival she complained of abdominal pain, telling the emergency department staff she had recently undergone abdominal surgery. The attending emergency room physician determined Ms. Glaskox was likely suffering from a bowel perforation. Given her circumstances, he ordered she be transferred to Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, where she had her prior surgery performed. After her transfer to Ochsner, she became severely hypotensive. Ms. Glaskox eventually suffered ischemic limb complications, causing her to undergo multiple limb amputation.
In January 2016, Ms. Glaskox sued George Regional Health System (which operates the George County Hospital). She claimed GRHS violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) in causing her to transferred while she was in shock and not in stable condition. GRHS filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings arguing the plaintiff’s tort claims, although arising under Federal law, were subject to the pre-suit notice requirement of the Mississippi Tort Act. Since no notice had been served by the plaintiff upon George County Hospital before she filed suit, dismissal was warranted. The Plaintiff responded that EMTALA preempted, and thus barred, application of the pre-suit notice requirement.
The United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi agreed with GRHS holding: (1) MTCA pre-suit notice requirement is a condition precedent to filing a action under EMTALA, and (2) that pre-suit notice requirement is not preempted by EMTALA since it does not directly conflict with federal law. Since the plaintiff failed to file a notice of claim before instituting her EMTALA suit, the Court dismissed her claim against GRHS.
The plaintiff has already filed a Notice of Appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. A decision is expected sometime within the next 18 months.
Stephen Burrow and James Heidelberg represented George County Regional Health System.