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McCann v. Kennedy University Hospital, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 11, 2014

ROBERT McCANN, Plaintiff,
v.
KENNEDY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, INC., Defendant.

Robert McCann, Pro se Sicklerville, NJ,

Thomas M. Walsh, Esq., PARKER McCAY, PA, Marlton, NJ, and John D. Cirrinicione, Esq., PARKER McCAY, PA, Mt. Laurel, NJ, Attorneys for Defendant Kennedy University Hospital, Inc.

OPINION

JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Kennedy University Hospital, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment. [Docket Item 93.] In this action, Plaintiff Robert McCann, who is proceeding pro se, asserts a single claim against Defendant under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act ("EMTALA") arising from an incident in which Defendant allegedly delayed and withheld medical treatment in the emergency room at Kennedy Hospital after learning that Plaintiff was uninsured. Defendant's motion turns on whether Plaintiff has adduced sufficient evidence to support a claim under EMTALA, giving him all favorable inferences from the admissible evidence of record.

For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

The Court deems the following facts undisputed.[1] On December 21, 2011, Plaintiff presented at Kennedy Hospital in Washington Township with complaints of rectal bleeding and back pain. (Def. Ex. C [Docket Item 93-3.]) Plaintiff arrived at the emergency room at 10:32 p.m. (Id.) Plaintiff was seen 14 minutes later at 10:46 p.m. by triage nurse, John M. DiDomenico, R.N. (Id.) The triage notes indicate that Plaintiff presented for an evaluation of rectal bleeding which began one week prior. (Id.) Plaintiff told Nurse DiDomenico that he injured his right knee and buttocks the previous Wednesday while at a casino. (Id.) Plaintiff further advised that he slipped and fell on the morning of December 21, 2011 and was experiencing pain, constant pressure, and stinging. (Id.) Plaintiff's admission urgency was graded an ESI3. (Id.) Plaintiff was admitted, but needed to wait for a bed. (Id.)

At 10:49 p.m., three minutes after his triage evaluation, another nurse, Erica Brown-Young, R.N., recorded Plaintiff's vital signs. (Id.) By 10:55 p.m., Nurse Brown-Young had recorded Plaintiff's medications and completed a head-to-toe assessment. (Id.) Plaintiff described intermittent aching in his lower back, which he rated as six out of ten, as well as rectal bleeding and pain from his buttocks to his lower back. (Id.) He also stated that his right knee "gave out on [him]." (Id.)

At 12:08 a.m. on December 22, 2011, Nurse Brown-Young noted that Plaintiff was at the entrance of the emergency room fully clothed. (Id.) Plaintiff responded with an angry affect when asked why he was leaving. (Id.) At 12:10 a.m., Dr. Costandinos Tsagaratos, D.O., noted that Plaintiff left without being seen by him. (Id.) Twenty-four minutes later, at 12:34 a.m., Plaintiff was re-admitted to the emergency room with the same complaints. (Def. Ex. D [Docket Item 93-3.]) At 12:44 a.m., triage nurse, Veronica Murphy, R.N., recorded Plaintiff's vital signs. (Id. at 2.) At 12:50 a.m., Nurse Murphy noted that Plaintiff complained of severe hemorrhoid pain and right knee pain from a slot machine falling on it three days prior. (Id. at 1.) At 1:39 a.m., an x-ray of Plaintiff's knee was completed, which showed no acute injury. (Id. at 4.) At 3:26 a.m., Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Tsagaratos. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff appeared to be in pain and experiencing moderate distress. (Id.) Dr. Tsagaratos noted that "Plaintiff has what appears to be a tear at 6 o'clock position to anus approximately 1 cm posteriorly which is exquisitely tender." (Id.) Dr. Tsagaratos notified his attending, Dr. Sobers-Brown, of Plaintiff's condition. (Id.) Thereafter, Plaintiff remained in the emergency department under the care of the emergency department nurses, Dr. Tsagaratos and Dr. Sobers-Brown. (Id.) Dr. Tsagaratos noted that Plaintiff became "irate on multiple occasions coming out to the hallway and cursing using 4 letter words, " but that his medical condition had stabilized since arriving. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff was discharged around 7:00 a.m. on December 22, 2011 with a diagnosis of "peri-anal abscess." (Id. at 5.) The discharge notes indicate that Plaintiff "was being loud and vulgar outside of room, pacing and demanding" and he requested the names of the nurse and "white" doctor, which Nurse Diana Hollup, R.N., provided. (Id.)

B. Procedural background

On March 12, 2012, Plaintiff filed a one-count Complaint alleging that Defendant Kennedy University Hospital, Inc. violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act ("EMTALA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd, by delaying and withholding medical treatment at the emergency room on December 21-22, 2011 after learning that Plaintiff lacked health insurance. [Docket Item 1.] Defendant filed an Answer on August 1, 2012, denying Plaintiff's allegations and requesting that Plaintiff provide an affidavit of merit pursuant to N.J.S.A. § 2A:53A-26 et seq. [Docket Item 7.] On January 14, 2013, Plaintiff appeared for a deposition during which he confirmed that he was not alleging medical malpractice against Defendant. (McCann Dep. [Docket Item 93-3] 153:1-3.) Plaintiff has not served an affidavit of merit or any other expert reports in this case. Accordingly, Plaintiff has no claim of medical malpractice.

As part of a contentious discovery process, Plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions due to Defendant's alleged spoliation of emergency room videotapes. [Docket Item 62.] After briefing and hearing argument on Plaintiff's motion regarding the emergency room videotape, Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider denied Plaintiff's motion for sanctions.[2] [Docket Item 97.] Judge Schneider found that, although Defendant was aware of Plaintiff's intent to sue weeks before the tapes were taped over, it was not unreasonable for Defendant to believe that Plaintiff's Complaint was based on the clinical care he received in the treatment area, and thus understood no need to ...


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