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BRYANT v. RIDDLE MEM. HOSP.

June 30, 1988

Sue A. Bryant
v.
Riddle Memorial Hospital



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEWCOMER

 CLARENCE C. NEWCOMER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 I have before me defendant Riddle Memorial Hospital's motion to dismiss this action for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction. For the reasons stated below, I will deny the motion.

 I. Factual Background

 Plaintiff Sue A. Bryant, an eighty-one year old nursing home patient, was taken to a hospital for treatment of a separated shoulder. She was treated and discharged back to her nursing home within a twenty-four (24) hour time period. Plaintiff filed a complaint in federal court for alleged violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd, on the basis that she was discharged from defendant Riddle Memorial Hospital before her condition had been "stabilized." Jurisdiction was founded upon federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

 Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the grounds that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act does not provide a basis for which federal jurisdiction can be obtained.

 II. Discussion

 The issue to be decided is whether the provisions of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (hereinafter the "Act") provide for a private cause of action in federal court. Section 1395dd(d)(3)(A) of the Act states:

 
Any individual who suffers personal harm as a direct result of a participating hospital's violation of a requirement of this section may, in a civil action against the participating hospital, obtain those damages available for personal injury under the law of the State in which the hospital is located, and such equitable relief as is appropriate.

 The Act therefore clearly allows civil enforcement of its provisions through a private cause of action. Section 1395dd(D)(3)(C) even provides a two year statute of limitations for the cause of action. What is not apparent, however, is in what forum a party can bring an action; i.e., whether an action can be brought in state or federal court or in both forums.

 Because of the Act's inherent ambiguity regarding this particular issue, it becomes necessary to explore the statute's legislative history in order to gain insight as to whether Congress intended to afford parties an opportunity to bring a cause of action arising under the Act in federal court. The history of a statute and the evolution of its language are relevant to the resolution of an ambiguity in the statute. Magee-Womens Hosp. v. Heckler, 562 F. Supp. 483, 485 (W.D. Pa. 1983). The Third Circuit has held that it is always appropriate to look to legislative history to help interpret a statute. Paskel v. Heckler, 768 F.2d 540, 543 (3d Cir. 1985). Further, in Berger v. Heckler, 771 F.2d 1556 (2d Cir. 1985), the court held that "where the scope of a statutory provision is not made crystal clear by the language of the provision, it is appropriate to turn to the legislative history of the statute." Id. at 1571.

 Another factor which reinforces the need to resort to the Act's legislative history is the fact that the parties and the court did not locate any case law addressing the issue now presently before the court. In construing a statute in a case of first impression, the court looks first to the language of the statute itself, then to its legislative history. Bresgal v. Brock, 833 F.2d 763, 765 (9th Cir. 1987). Since the present case is indeed one of first impression, it is particularly appropriate to examine the legislative history of the Act in order to determine whether Congress intended to provide a federal cause of action.

 An analysis of the legislative history of the Act supports the conclusion that the intent of Congress was to allow an action arising under the Act to be brought in federal court. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act was enacted in order to combat the growing problem of "patient dumping." Patient dumping arose out of the common law "no duty" rule which allowed hospitals to refuse treatment to any patient. See generally, Note, Preventing Patient Dumping: Sharpening the COBRA's Fangs, 61 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 1186, 1187 (1986)(authored by Karen I. Treiger). The Act was signed into law on April 7, 1986, as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). P.L. 99-272. Senator Durenberger, one of the co-sponsors of the Senate version of the measure designed to deal with emergency medical care, *fn1" expressed the concern that "the practice of rejecting indigent patients in life threatening situations for economic reasons alone is unconscionable." 131 Cong. Rec. S 13,903 (daily ed. October 23, 1985). Likewise, Representative Bilirakis, who is a member of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee and who introduced similar legislation, expressed the notion that "no person should be denied emergency health care or hospital admittance because of a lack of money or insurance." 131 Cong. Rec. H 9503 (daily ed. October 31, 1985).

 The Committee on Ways and Means stated the following with regard to Section 124 of H.R. 3128 (responsibilities of medicare ...


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