Ward v. Lutheran Medical Center et al
ORDER Granting Motion for Summary Judgment and Denying Motion to Amend the Complaint. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint 232 is DENIED. Lutheran's Motion for Summary Judgment 285 is GRANTED. The Court enters summary judgment in favor of Lutheran and against Plaintiff. The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment in favor of Lutheran and against Plaintiff. SO ORDERED by Judge Christine M. Arguello on 11/19/2020.(swest)
Case 1:18-cv-00232-CMA-STV Document 325 Filed 11/19/20 USDC Colorado Page 1 of 9
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Judge Christine M. Arguello
Civil Action No. 18-cv-00232-CMA-STV
ANTHONY WARD, pro se,
LUTHERAN MEDICAL CENTER,
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
AND DENYING MOTION TO AMEND THE COMPLAINT
This matter is before the Court on (1) Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend the Complaint
(Doc. # 232); and (2) a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant SCL HealthFront Range, d/b/a/ Lutheran Medical Center (Doc. # 285). For the following reasons,
the Court denies the Motion to Amend and grants the Motion for Summary Judgment.
This began as a medical malpractice case. Plaintiff claimed that the staff of
Lutheran Medical Center (“Lutheran Hospital” or “Lutheran”) failed to diagnose an
accidental drug overdose, causing him to experience acute renal failure. (Doc. # 22).
Plaintiff initially asserted numerous claims against more than a dozen defendants, but
the majority of claims and defendants have been dismissed. (See Doc. # 286). The only
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remaining cause of action is Plaintiff’s claim against Lutheran for a violation of the
Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd.
Plaintiff now seeks to amend his Complaint to add six new defendants, and
Lutheran seeks summary judgment on the EMTALA claim.
MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT
Plaintiff seeks to add six additional Lutheran employees as Defendants. (Doc. #
232). Plaintiff’s Motion is untimely and futile.
The deadline to amend pleadings was February 27, 2020. (Docs. ## 166, 179).
Plaintiff waited until June 1, 2020 – more than three months after the deadline – to file
his Motion to Amend. (Doc. # 232). Although a plaintiff may sometimes amend his
complaint after the deadline, he must establish good cause for doing so. Gorsuch, Ltd.,
B.C. v. Wells Fargo Nat’l Bank Ass’n, 771 F.3d 1230, 1241 (10th Cirt. 2014). Plaintiff
has failed to establish good cause for his untimely amendment.
Although Plaintiff asserts that he was unable to name these defendants earlier
because their identities were “concealed” from him, this assertion is plainly incorrect.
Each of these individuals was identified in Plaintiff’s medical records, which Plaintiff
obtained before filing his Complaint in January 2018. In fact, Plaintiff attached the
relevant records to his Complaint. (See Doc. # 1-3, pp. 7, 21, and 29). Further, Plaintiff
has already amended his Complaint three times. (See Docs. ## 1, 16, 21, 22). Plaintiff
offers no explanation as to why he could not have named these defendants in his prior
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Moreover, even if Plaintiff’s proposed amendments were timely, they would
nevertheless not be permitted because amendment is futile. An amendment is futile
when the amended complaint “would be subject to dismissal for any reason.” Watson ex
rel. Watson v. Beckel, 242 F. 3d 1237, 1239-40 (10th Cir. 2001). The claims that
Plaintiff seeks to add were already asserted in the prior version of his complaint;
however, they were dismissed for lack of merit. (See Docs. # 36, 38, 286). Plaintiff
offers no explanation as to why he should be allowed to reassert claims that have
already been dismissed with prejudice. Therefore, Plaintiff’s proposed amended
complaint would be subject to dismissal, and amendment would be futile.
Having concluded that Plaintiff may not amend his Complaint to add additional
defendants, the Court now turns to the only claim remaining in this lawsuit: Plaintiff’s
EMTALA claim against Lutheran Hospital.
Summary judgment is appropriate if the record shows that (1) “there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact” and (2) “the moving party is entitled to a judgment
as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of
establishing each of these elements. Sally Beauty Co., Inc. v. Beautyco, Inc., 304 F. 3d
964, 971 (10th Cir. 2002). Once the moving party meets this burden, however, the
burden shifts to the nonmoving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Id. Rule 56 mandates entry of summary judgment against a
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party who fails “to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).
i. Effect of Plaintiff’s Failure to Respond
Lutheran filed its summary judgment motion on August 3, 2020. Plaintiff’s
response deadline was August 24, 2020, (D.C.COLO.LCivR 7.1(d)). Plaintiff failed to
respond by that date. Then, on September 21, 2020 – nearly a month after the
response deadline – Plaintiff requested a forty-day extension of time to respond to
Lutheran’s Motion. (Doc. # 313). The Court granted Plaintiff an additional twenty-one
days to respond, (Doc. # 316), but Plaintiff again failed to respond by the extended
deadline. Plaintiff also failed to respond within the forty days he requested.
By failing to file a response to a summary judgment motion, a plaintiff waives the
right to challenge the facts asserted in the motion. Reed v. Bennett, 312 F.3d 1190,
1194-95 (10th Cir. 2002). Therefore, if Lutheran has met its initial burden of
demonstrating (1) the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact and (2) that it is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law, the Court will grant summary judgment in
Lutheran’s favor. Id. at 1195.
Lutheran is Entitled to Summary Judgment on the Merits
Plaintiff alleges that Lutheran violated EMTALA by failing to stabilize his blood
pressure before discharging him. (Doc. # 22, p. 11-12). Lutheran has demonstrated that
it is entitled to summary judgment on this claim.
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Legal Standard for EMTALA Claims
EMTALA was enacted to prevent hospitals from refusing to provide emergency
care to uninsured patients. St. Anthony Hosp. v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human
Services, 309 F. 3d 680, 692 (10th Cir. 2002). To that end, when a person presents to
an emergency room, EMTALA requires that the hospital provide “an appropriate
medical screening examination . . . to determine whether or not an emergency medical
condition . . . exists.” 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(a). If the patient is experiencing an
“emergency medical condition,” 1 the hospital must provide “such further medical
examination and such treatment as may be required to stabilize the medical condition.” 2
42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(b)(1)(A).
Plaintiff alleges that Lutheran negligently failed to diagnose his alleged drug
overdose. (Doc. # 22, p. 11). This allegation fails as a matter of law.
“EMTALA, unlike traditional state negligence or malpractice law, does not provide
a remedy for an inadequate or inaccurate diagnosis.” Phillips v. Hillcrest Medical
Center, 244 F. 3d 790, 798 (10th Cir. 2001). The purpose of the EMTALA screening
requirement “is to determine whether an ‘emergency medical condition exists.’ Nothing
more, nothing less.” Collins v. DePaul Hosp., 963 F. 2d 303, 307 (10th Cir. 1992).
An “Emergency medical condition” is “a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of
sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that the absence of immediate medical attention could
reasonably be expected to result in . . . placing the health of the individual . . . in serious jeopardy” or
“serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.” 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(e)(1).
2 “To stabilize” means “to provide such medical treatment of the condition as may be necessary to assure,
with reasonable medical probability, that no material deterioration of the condition is likely to result from or
occur during the transfer of the individual from a facility.” 42 U.S.C. § 139dd(e)(3)(A).
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Generally, a hospital will be deemed to have conducted an “appropriate medical
screening examination” if it adhered to its own standard screening procedures. Repp v.
Anadarko Mun. Hosp., 43 F. 3d 519, 522 (10th Cir. 1994) (“A court should ask only
whether the hospital adhered to its own procedures, not whether the procedures were
adequate if followed.”).
Plaintiff has not even argued, let alone presented evidence, that the medical
examination he received was inconsistent with Lutheran’s standard screening
procedures. Therefore, the Court has no basis to conclude that Lutheran violated
EMTALA’s screening requirement. Although the Court construes Plaintiff’s pro-se
pleadings liberally, it may not act as his advocate, and it cannot read into his Complaint
a claim that Plaintiff did not make. See, e.g. Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518,
1521 (10th Cir. 1992) (“the court should not assume the role of advocate” for a pro se
plaintiff) see also Nielsen v. Price, 17 F. 3d 1276, 1277 (10th Cir. 1994) (pro se parties
must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants).
Furthermore, all evidence now before the Court indicates that Plaintiff’s medical
examination did comply with Lutheran’s standard screening procedures. According to
Lutheran’s Motion – which is supported by the Plaintiff’s medical records – Plaintiff
received a physical evaluation, a laboratory evaluation, an EKG, and a CT scan upon
his arrival at the emergency room. (Doc. # 285-1, pp. 1-8). He was also offered a urine
toxicology test, but he decided to leave the hospital without providing a urine sample.
(Doc. # 285-1, p. 2). According to Lutheran’s expert witness, this examination was
“appropriate and thorough,” and it was “reasonably calculated to determine the
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existence of an emergency medical condition.” (Doc. # 285-1, p. 44, ¶ 7). Further,
Lutheran’s expert opines that this examination revealed that Plaintiff “was not suffering
from an emergency medical condition at the time of his discharge” from Lutheran. (Doc.
# 285-1, p. 45, ¶ 10).
Because Lutheran has presented facts to show that it satisfied EMTALA’s
screening requirement, the burden shifts to Plaintiff to demonstrate a genuine dispute of
material fact on this point. Sally Beauty Co., Inc. 304 F. 3d at 971. “The movant has the
burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of fact, but the plaintiff is not thereby
relieved of his own burden of producing in turn evidence that would support a jury
verdict.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). “Rule 56(e) itself
provides that a party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may
not rest upon mere allegation or denials of his pleading, but must set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. Plaintiff has failed to meet his burden.
Therefore, the only evidence before the Court is that Plaintiff received an “appropriate
medical screening examination” as required by EMTALA. Additionally, because that
screening revealed no “emergency medical condition,” Lutheran satisfied its obligations
under EMTALA, and it properly discharged Plaintiff.
Plaintiff argues, however, that Lutheran violated EMTALA by failing to stabilize
his blood pressure before discharging him from the emergency room. (Doc. # 22, p. 11).
This argument fails because Plaintiff’s blood pressure did not constitute an “emergency
medical condition” requiring stabilization.
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EMTALA’s stabilization requirement takes effect only when the patient is
experiencing an “emergency medical condition.” 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(b)(1)(A). Where
the patient is not experiencing such a condition, the stabilization requirement does not
apply. Id. Lutheran’s motion demonstrates (1) that Plaintiff received an appropriate
medical screening; and (2) that the screening revealed no emergency medical
condition. (Doc. # 285-1, pp. 45-46, ¶¶ 11-14). Plaintiff has not presented any evidence
to contradict Lutheran’s position. Although Plaintiff argues that his blood pressure
constituted an emergency medical condition, he provides no evidence to support that
argument. Lutheran, on the other hand, has provided an expert report explaining why
blood pressure stabilization was not only unnecessary, but potentially dangerous. (Doc.
# 285-1, p. 45-46). This evidence was sufficient to shift the burden to Plaintiff to
establish a genuine dispute of material fact on this point. Plaintiff failed to do so, and
Lutheran is therefore entitled to summary judgment in its favor.
Based on the foregoing, the Court ORDERS as follows:
Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend the Complaint (Doc. # 232) is DENIED;
Lutheran’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 285) is GRANTED;
The Court hereby enters summary judgment in favor of Lutheran and against
The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment in favor of Lutheran and against
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DATED: November 19, 2020
BY THE COURT:
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO
United States District Judge
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