An Upper Marlboro man’s lawsuit under a federal anti-patient-dumping statute will proceed after a judge found claims that Prince George’s Hospital Center’s failure to perform surgery in a timely manner may have led to the amputations of the plaintiff’s legs.
Terence Williams filed suit last year in Prince George’s County Circuit Court alleging he was not properly screened at the hospital and staff failed to stabilize and either treat or transfer him to another facility. The case was removed to federal court because its basis was the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.
U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm earlier this week granted in part and denied in part a defense motion for summary judgment, finding the record before him did not prove that the hospital fulfilled its statutory obligation to stabilize Williams until he was admitted.
“Our claim had merit and we’re moving on to the next round,” said J. Wyndal Gordon, a lawyer for Williams. “We’re enthusiastic about the court’s opinion and we’ll keep our nose to the grindstone and get justice for our client.”
EMTALA requires hospitals with emergency rooms to provide care to all who come there and gives a private cause of action for personal harm resulting from a violation. The hospital must appropriately screen the patient and provide treatment to stabilize or transfer them to another facility. There also is a duty to stabilize a patient until they are transferred, discharged or admitted.
An EMTALA case arises separately from a medical malpractice action and carries civil penalties in addition to damages under state law as well as “such equitable relief as is appropriate.”
Williams was in a car accident in May 2014 and treated on-site by paramedics, the complaint states. He was taken to the hospital within an hour and spent more than two hours in the emergency room without receiving treatment for his legs, the complaint states. Williams also alleges he was not seen by the on-call trauma surgeon within the time limit required by law and was initially screened by a physician’s assistant.
The necessary specialists, an orthopedic surgeon and a vascular surgeon, did not arrive and start surgery until more than four hours Williams sustained the injuries, which had a four- to six-hour treatment window, according to court documents.
“Under the circumstances of this case, time was of the essence for Williams to receive emergency surgical attention and the tolling of the golden hour to repair his injuries was nigh,” the complaint states.
Williams was transported to University of Maryland Shock Trauma 11 days later and his legs were amputated.
A spokesperson for the University of Maryland Medical System, which took over the hospital’s ownership from named defendant Dimensions Healthcare System, did not respond to a request for comment.
Failure to stabilize
Grimm found the prompt screening by a physician’s assistant followed the hospital’s procedures and therefore did not violate the law but said the pleadings and medical records show “Williams continued to bleed from his injuries for more than eleven hours after his arrival and, in the end, his legs had to be amputated.”
Williams was admitted to the hospital at some point prior to his surgery but the hospital had a duty to stabilize him up to that point, Grimm ruled.
Gordon, a Baltimore solo practitioner, said he believes the failure to deal with Williams’ trauma was wrong and grossly negligent, noting that his client was “angry and upset” as they went through his medical records and pieced together what happened with his treatment.
“There was such a lack of concern for this particular patient from those who were hired to be on call in that hospital,” Gordon said.
Williams also recently filed a malpractice lawsuit in Prince George’s County Circuit Court after the case failed to resolve in arbitration. Gordon also is representing Williams in the state case, along with Gregory K. Wells of Shadoan, Michael & Wells LLP in Rockville.
The cases are Terence Williams v. Dimensions Health Corporation, 8:16-cv-04123, and Terence Williams v. Dimensions Health Corporation et al., CAL17-35481.