Imagination-in-Pleading Award

The Imagination-in-Pleading Award for September goes to plaintiff Willie Pearl Smith for her lawsuit against the Hospital Authority of Cobb County, Georgia, and related entities in connection with the death of her daughter, allegedly resulting from medical negligence.

Smith’s claims—sixteen by the district court’s count–included wrongful death, medical malpractice, and negligence–all claims under state law. But Smith filed in federal court. As the basis of federal jurisdiction, she relied on 42 USC 1983, claiming deprivation of rights under federal law. What federal law? The Hill-Burton Act, the act that authorized federal construction loans to hospitals, provided they “furnish needed services for persons unable to pay therefor.”

But, as the district court pointed out in dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction, the Hill-Burton Act doesn’t provide a right of action for medical malpractice. If it did, “any tortious act occurring at a medical facility that received federal funds would give rise to a federal cause of action, a result that is nowhere found in the Hill-Burton Act.”

On September 19 the Eleventh Circuit unanimously affirmed the dismissal in an unpublished opinion.

The case is Smith v. Hospital Authority of Cobb County, Case 17-11512 (11th Cir. Sept. 19, 2017).



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