Illinois Court Upholds FSHCAA Protections in Malpractice Case, Even if HHS Erred

Magistrate Judge Gilbert C. Sison authored an opinion Wednesday in the Southern District of Illinois concerning a case originally brought on behalf of a minor who suffered severe injuries allegedly as a result of medical malpractice. The suit was brought against Granite City Illinois Hospital Company, et al., in state court, but was removed upon a finding by the government that the defendant was a Public Health Service employee, and, as required by statute, the United States intervened and moved for the dismissal of the earlier defendants as part of a liability shield provided by the law.

At issue in the case is whether the Department of Health and Human Services’ determination that a practitioner is a Public Health Service employee under the Federally Supported Health Centers Assistance Act (FSHCAA) is appropriate. The plaintiff argued that the case should remain in state court for discovery to determine whether the defendant was a contractor.

The opinion explained that while the Federal Tort Claims Act does explicitly exclude contractors from its coverage, the FSCHAA explicitly includes them. Despite this, the point is moot, according to the court, citing a Seventh Circuit opinion that found that even after the government admitted that it erroneously determined that the defendant qualified under FSCHAA, the federal courts still could retain jurisdiction, as the determination is final.

Accordingly, the court held that the case will remain in federal court, and the U.S. will be substituted for the defendants. The plaintiff is represented by Scroggins Law Office and the former defendants by Evans & Dixon.