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WILLIAM F. BYRNE v. THE CLEVELAND CLINIC

November 30, 2010

WILLIAM F. BYRNE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CLEVELAND CLINIC,
AND THE CHESTER COUNTY HOSPITAL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gene E.K. Pratter Gene E.K. Pratter United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

GENEE.K. PRATTER, J.

Plaintiff William F. Byrne filed this action as a pro se litigant against Defendants The Cleveland Clinic (the "Clinic") and Chester County Hospital (the "Hospital"). After the Court granted in part and denied in part the Defendants' motions to dismiss, Mr. Byrne has one surviving claim, a medical screening claim under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act ("EMTALA"). Mr. Byrne now moves to compel discovery, and for the reasons discussed below, the motion is denied.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On September 30, 2010, the Court issued an Order (Docket No. 66) requiring the Hospital to "produce to Plaintiff, for all patients presenting to the Hospital's emergency room from January 15, 2007 through February 15, 2007 with symptoms of chest pain, the complete emergency room charts and any additional Hospital patient records that reflect the steps that the Hospital took to satisfy the Hospital's EMTALA-mandated protocols for each such patient ('Patient Records')." The Court's September 30, 2010 Order was issued following a hearing held on September 27, 2010, at which the parties had the opportunity to present their arguments concerning the scope of production of the Patient Records.

During the hearing Mr. Byrne raised the same argument that he raises in his Motion now before the Court that the Hospital should provide patient records for patients who presented to the Hospital's emergency room with chest pains and were ultimately diagnosed with a heart attack:

THE COURT: . . . You say that what you are focusing on for some reason is you want to see the screening employed for other patients who ended up being diagnosed with a heart attack; is that right?

MR. BYRNE: Yes, Ma'am.

THE COURT: All right. Now, why do you think the diagnosis of a heart attack is the focal point when, in fact, the screening comes much before the diagnosis if I understand what's going on correctly here in terms of what counsel's been telling me.

MR. BYRNE: Probably just because of the end result of somebody having a heart attack --THE COURT: Okay.

MR. BYRNE: -- you know, versus somebody being released for indigestion, Your

Honor.

Tr. at 18.

After considering Mr. Byrne's argument at the hearing and the Hospital's response, the Court ordered the Hospital to produce records for patients who presented symptoms of chest pains, regardless of the ultimate diagnoses, because those such records were relevant to Mr. Byrne's only pending claim. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b) ("For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action."); Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c),(c)(iii) ("[T]he court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by these rules . . . if it determines that . . . the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues."); Wyeth v. Orgenus Pharma Inc., Civil Action No. 09-3235, 2010 WL 4117157, at *4 (D.N.J. Oct. 19, 2010) (recognizing that "courts will refuse to compel discovery if the information being sought is . . . irrelevant to the claim . . . ." (citing Fed. R.Civ. P. 26(b)(1))). Mr. Byrne's pending claim against Defendants is a medical screening claim under EMTALA, and that statute's screening requirement requires a hospital's emergency department to provide "an appropriate medical screening examination within the capability of the hospital's emergency department . . . to determine whether or not an emergency medical condition . . . exists." 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 1395dd(a). An EMTALA screening claim is contingent on whether appropriate screening procedures were provided; it is not contingent on the outcome of screening, such as the resulting diagnosis (whether correct or incorrect) or subsequent treatment provided (whether adequate or inadequate). See Johnson v. Portz, Civil Action No. 08-593-JJF, 2010 WL 1644279, at *3 (D. Del. Apr. 22, 2010) ("The issue in an EMTALA case ...


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