Appellate Division Reaffirms The Limits of a Private Hospital’s Duty of Care in Non-Emergent Circumstances

The Appellate Division, First Department, overturned a lower court’s decision refusing to dismiss a medical malpractice suit claiming that HPM&B’s client, a private hospital, delayed outpatient therapy following emergency hand surgery, resulting in scarring and permanent loss of range of motion to the fingers.  It was undisputed that treatment was delayed while Plaintiff was awaiting approval for payment from Workers’ Compensation.  HPM&B argued that hand therapy is not considered emergent care as contemplated by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) and NY Public Health Law, which only apply to immediate care to treat an acute condition.  Accordingly, HPM&B argued that the Hospital did not have a duty to treat the plaintiff until the plaintiff established he had the means to pay for the treatment.  


After the motion was denied, on appeal, HPM&B successfully argued that private hospitals have no such obligation in non-emergency circumstances.  The Appellate Division agreed, holding that a medical provider has no duty at common law to accept any particular patient for treatment generally, or where there is no payment specifically.  The Appellate Court also found that plaintiff had failed to state a cause of action pursuant to EMTALA, because the treatment at issue was not an emergent condition requiring admission, and the Hospital’s duty pursuant to EMTALA ended when plaintiff’s condition stabilized.  Finally, the Court felt that the Public Health Law does not create a private right of recovery for monetary damages.  Accordingly, the action was dismissed in its entirety.


                Daniel S. Ratner and Ana Maria Vizzo represented the Hospital.