Legal Memorandum: Sovereign Immunity in a Personal Injury Action

Issue: Under Ohio law, what is the rule on sovereign immunity in a personal injury action where the state is named as a defendant?

Area of Law: Government Claims, Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Sovereign immunity; Personal injury; State as defendant
Jurisdiction: Ohio
Cited Cases: 42 F.3d 851; 481 U.S. 412; 733 F. Supp. 1189; 895 F.2d 1131; 593 N.Y.S.2d 442; 766 F. Supp. 623; 830 F. Supp. 1399
Cited Statutes: 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd ; 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(d); 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(d)(1); 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(c)(1); 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(c)(2)(A); 28 U.S.C. § 1367; 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(d)(2)(C)
Date: 02/01/2001

A claim may be pursued under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (“EMTALA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd (Supp. 1995). 

An EMTALA claim may be brought in federal court.  See Thornton v. Southwest Detroit Hosp., 895 F.2d 1131, 1133 (6th Cir. 1990).  EMTALA creates a private right of action against hospitals that provide a substandard medical screening or inappropriately transfer an emergency room patient.   42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(d) (Supp. 1995).  EMTALA does not, however, authorize a private action against the doctors that treated the patient.  See Howe v. Hull, 874 F. Supp. 779, 784 (N.D. Ohio 1994) (also construing federal claims under Americans with Disabilities Act and Federal Rehabilitation Act and state law claims for infliction of emotional distress);  Carodenuto v. New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 593 N.Y.S.2d 442, 445 (Sup. Ct. 1992).  While EMTALA provides for administrative enforcement procedures and civil penalties against physicians under certain circumstances, the private “civil enforcement” provisions refer only to actions against a participating hospital.  Howe, 874 F. Supp. at 785 (citing, 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(d)(1)); Carodenuto, 593 N.Y.S.2d at 445.

In order to overcome a motion to dismiss under EMTALA, the plaintiff must allege that:

(1)  the plaintiff went to the defendant’s emergency room,

(2)  the plaintiff had an emergency medical condition, and either

(3)  the hospital did not adequately screen the plaintiff to determine whether the plaintiff had an emergency condition, or

(4)  the hospital discharged or transferred […]

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