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Mullins v. Suburban Hospital Healthcare Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 6, 2017

JERRY W. MULLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
SUBURBAN HOSPITAL HEALTHCARE SYSTEMS, INC. et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Pending are separate motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Suburban Hospital Healthcare Systems, Inc., Dr. Jules Alexander Feledy, Jr., Bethesda Emergency Associates, LLC, Dr. Matthew Leonard, Dr. River Elliott, MedStar Health, Inc., Union Memorial Hospital, Inc., and Johns Hopkins Health Systems Corporation. ECF Nos. 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29. The relevant issues have been fully briefed and the Court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary. The motions to dismiss are granted in part and denied in part. Plaintiff's motion to file a second amended complaint (ECF No. 36) and his motion to file a surreply (ECF No. 47) are also pending. Both motions are denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts outlined here are taken from the amended complaint and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff Jerry Mullins.[1]

         A. Factual History

         On April 15, 2014, Plaintiff Jerry Mullins (“Plaintiff”) sustained a severe injury to his right hand while working with a spinning fan blade. Amended Complaint, ECF No. 5 at 2. A bystander called 911 and an ambulance arrived soon thereafter. Plaintiff asked the ambulance crew if they would transport him directly to a dedicated hand center so that his injury could be treated by a specialist. The ambulance crew informed Plaintiff that the closest hand center was the Curtis National Hand Center at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and it would take the ambulance about one hour to get there. The crew instead stopped at the nearby Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland so that Plaintiff could receive pain medication and be stabilized before transporting him to Baltimore. Id. at 3.

         Upon entering Suburban Hospital's emergency room, Plaintiff was approached by a triage nurse who administered a numbing agent and placed the hand in a split. The emergency room's staff then took Plaintiff medical history. The nurse told Plaintiff that because the hospital's lead on-call hand specialist was unavailable, he would be transported to the Curtis National Hand Center in Baltimore after the Hand Center approved the transfer. Id. at 4.

         At 3:30 pm, approximately three hours after Plaintiff's arrival at the hospital, the attending emergency room physician, Dr. Matthew Leonard, informed Plaintiff that the Hand Center had rejected the transfer. An hour later, Dr. James Gosha, a licensed orthopedic surgeon, approached Plaintiff, studied his hand, and confirmed that he would treat Plaintiff's injuries. Id. at 5-6. Dr. Gosha performed surgery on Plaintiff that night and when Plaintiff awoke the next morning, he discovered that Dr. Gosha had placed a “huge external fixture on his finger.” Id. at 6. Dr. Gosha then met with Plaintiff to discuss the extent of the injury and proper care of the wound. Id. at 6. He was discharged from the hospital later that day.

         Upon returning to his home in Virginia, Plaintiff sought further treatment from the UVA Hand Center in Charlottesville, Virginia. The hand specialists at the UVA Center were “appalled by the device used to hold the finger in place.” Id. at 7. They explained to Plaintiff that a hand specialist would use a much smaller device to stabilize the finger designed to facilitate healing without overly restricting the finger's range of motion. Plaintiff alleges that the UVA hand specialists believed the device used by Dr. Gosha was much too large for the job and the screws Dr. Gosha used penetrated the tendons that crossed the topside of the finger. While the hand specialists believed the procedure Dr. Gosha performed was done poorly, there was little they could do to repair the finger without risking further injury.

         Plaintiff alleges that he has waited almost two years to give his injuries the opportunity to heal before filing a lawsuit. But despite time and physical therapy, his finger remains impaired, which “has handicapped his normal daily activities including his occupation, his hobbies, [and] his normal enjoyment of life.” Id. at 5.

         B. Procedural History

         On or about April 14, 2016, Plaintiff, appearing pro se, filed two separate complaints (“Complaint I” and “Complaint II”) in this Court related to the care he received for his hand injuries. The complaints were docketed as separate cases, Civ. No. PX 16-1113 (Complaint I) and Civ. No. PX 16-1114 (Complaint II).

         In Complaint I, Plaintiff brings claims against Johns Hopkins Suburban Hospital and Dr. Jules Alexander Feledy Jr. for violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd et seq. (“EMTALA”) and for medical malpractice. On June 30, 2016, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, splitting Johns Hopkins Suburban Hospital into two separate defendants; Suburban Hospital Healthcare Systems, Inc. (SHHS) and Johns Hopkins Health Systems Corporation (JHHS). He also added as defendants Bethesda Emergency Associates LLC and Dr. Matthew Leonard, MD.

         In Complaint II, Plaintiff brings claims against MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, Dr. River M. Elliott, and Dr. Neil Zimmerman for violations of EMTALA and for medical malpractice. On June 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint again splitting a defendant, this time Medstar Union Memorial Hospital, into two different defendants; Union Memorial Hospital Inc. and Medstar Health Inc.[2] On August 4, 2016, the Court consolidated both cases, designating Civ. No. PX 16-1113 as the Lead Case.

         Now before the Court are the Defendants' six separate motions to dismiss. ECF Nos. 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29. Each motion argues that the alleged conduct does not amount to an EMTALA violation and that Plaintiff's medical malpractice claim must be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to first file his case in Health Claims court pursuant to Maryland's Health Care Malpractice Claims Act (“HCMCA”) requirements. Plaintiff has also filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint (ECF No. 36) and a motion to ...


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