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Lozoya v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan

June 17, 2008

JOAN G. LOZOYA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KAISER FOUNDATION HEALTH PLAN, INC., AND KAISER PERMANENTE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER: (1) GRANTING IN PART AND DEFENDANTS HOSPITAL CORPORATION OF AMERICA, INC. AND MOUNTAIN VIEW HOSPITAL'S MOTION TO DISMISS; and ERIC J. ANDERSON, LINDSY BLAKE, HOSPITAL CORPORATION OF (2) GRANTING PLAINTIFF AMERICA, INC., MOUNTAIN VIEW LEAVE TO AMEND. HOSPITAL, FREEMONT EMERGENCY SERVICE INC., ALEXANDRA E. PAGE, (Doc. No. 15.) DENYING IN PART

Presently before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by defendants Hospital Corporation of America, Inc., and Mountain View Hospital (hereinafter "defendants"). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motion, and GRANTS plaintiff leave to amend.

Factual Background

The following facts are taken from plaintiff's complaint. On November 8, 2006, plaintiff Joan Lozoya fell and suffered a serious shoulder fracture. Plaintiff was seventy-four years old at the time.

She went to Mountain View Hospital in Clark County, Nevada, for medical attention. Doctors Anderson and Blake informed plaintiff she had a severe fracture of her right shoulder. They put her arm in a sling and provided medication for the pain. Plaintiff requested to see an orthopedic specialist or to be transferred to a larger hospital for orthopedic surgery. Defendants refused these requests and discharged her, recommending she seek treatment when she returned to her home in San Diego. On November 11, 2006, she sought treatment in San Diego in the emergency department of Kaiser Permanente. On November 12, 2006, Dr. Page performed surgery on her arm. Plaintiff alleges medical malpractice by the hospitals and doctors in both Nevada and California, and claims Mountain View Hospital's refusal to treat her violated federal law. Plaintiff suffered and continues to suffer from pain, emotional distress, impaired enjoyment, and loss of use of her arm.

Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed her initial complaint on November 8, 2007, and a first amended complaint on January 4, 2008. (Doc. Nos. 1 & 3.) On March 4, 2008, the Court granted plaintiff's motion for extension of time to serve summonses and the complaint on the defendants. On April 14, 2008, defendants Anderson and Fremont Emergency Service, Inc. filed a motion to dismiss the federal claim against them. (Doc. No. 12.) On May 28, 2008, the parties filed a stipulation to dismiss the federal claim against those defendants. (Doc. No. 26.) The Court granted this motion on May 28, 2008. (Doc. No. 27.)

Hospital Corporation and Mountain View Hospital also filed a motion to dismiss on April 14, 2008. (Doc. No. 15.) On May 16, 2008, plaintiff filed an opposition to defendants' motion. (Doc. No. 21.) On May 23, 2008, defendants filed a reply. (Doc. No. 23.) The Court heard oral argument on the motion on June 2, 2008. Kyle Cruse appeared on behalf of defendants Hospital Corporation of America, Inc., and Mountain View Hospital. Frank J. Lozoya, IV appeared by telephone on behalf of plaintiff Joan G. Lozoya.

Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 731 (9th Cir. 2001). The Court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim when "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Navarro, 250 F.3d at 732 (citing Conley). In other words, a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper only where there is either a "lack of a cognizable legal theory" or "the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

In deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court's review is generally limited to the contents of the complaint. Campanelli v. Bockrath, 100 F.3d 1476, 1479 (9th Cir. 1996); Allarcom Pay Television, Ltd. v. Gen. Instrument Corp., 69 F.3d 381, 385 (9th Cir. 1995). The court must accept all factual allegations pled in the complaint as true, and must construe them and draw all reasonable inferences from them in favor of the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996); Mier v. Owens, 57 F.3d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Usher v. City of Los Angeles, 828 F.2d 556, 561 (9th Cir. 1987). In spite of the deference the court is bound to pay to the plaintiff's allegations, it is not proper for the court to assume that "the [plaintiff] can prove facts which [he or she] has not alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). Furthermore, the court is not required to credit conclusory legal allegations cast in the form of factual allegations, "unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001); W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). Motion to Dismiss Defendants Hospital Corporation and Mountain View Hospital argue the Court should dismiss all claims against them.

A. Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act Claim

Defendants argue plaintiff has not pleaded a violation of the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (hereinafter "EMTALA"). EMTALA established several requirements for hospitals which participate in the federal Medicare program. First, EMTALA provides that hospitals with emergency rooms must "provide for 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. § 1395dd(a).*fn1 If the hospital discovers an emergency medical condition, it must provide "such further medical examination and such treatment as may be required to stabilize the medical condition" or transfer the individual. Id. ยง 1395dd(b). "To stabilize" means: to provide such medical treatment of the condition as may ...


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