EMTALA: Court Permits Whistleblower Suit for Retaliation and Other Civil Wrongs

June 1, 2015 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​The plaintiffs, an emergency physician and a physician assistant (PA), a married couple, sued their former employer, a hospital, for retaliatory discharge, fraud, wrongful interference with an advantageous economic relationship, and defamation and invoked the whistleblower protections of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) and state law. A U.S. district court in Maine rejected the hospital's motion for summary judgment on all counts, finding that the individual plaintiffs provided sufficient evidence to sustain their claims, and allowed the litigation to further proceed.

The PA claimed that she relied to her detriment upon false assurances the hospital made during and after her employment interview that it would not eliminate PA positions in the emergency department (ED) in favor of hiring physicians. The PA left her previous job, rejected other job offers, and incurred financial losses in relocating her family in order to accept the position. Fifteen months later, the hospital announced it would phase out PAs from the ED in favor of physicians and later terminated the plaintiff's employment. The hospital claimed it acted on an outside consultant's recommendation, but the PA asserted that the hospital...

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