Health Law

Fla. Hospital Wins Tort Case Over Flying Patient to Guatemala on Chartered Plane

Despite a judge’s instruction that Martin Memorial Medical Center, as a matter of law, unlawfully detained a longtime patient and deprived him of his liberty by sending him home on a chartered plane to Guatemala, a Florida jury ruled in favor of the hospital today in a much-watched tort case.

The hospital’s effective deportation of Luis Alberto Jiménez, an uninsured illegal immigrant, was done against the wishes of the brain-injured man’s legal guardian, who had sought $1 million in damages to cover the cost of his cousin’s future medical care, notes the New York Times. However, it did not amount to false imprisonment, the jury found.

Although, the 2003 chartered flight was authorized by a state-court order, the hospital’s action circumvented what otherwise likely would have been a lengthy appeal process, as discussed in an earlier post.

Mark Robitaille, the medical center’s president and chief executive, praised the jury’s decision but also called for a better solution to the problem of life-saving care that hospitals provide to uninsured patients.

“Unfortunately none of the proposed national health care reform bills currently being debated in Washington address the issue,” he tells the Times. “That means there are still cases like Luis Jiménez’s in hospitals across the country and there will continue to be cases like Luis Jiménez’s.”

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