Federally Qualified Health Center Entitled to New Jersey’s Cap on Charitable Immunity for Hospitals – S.M. v. United States of America – CA No. 13-5702, USDC – DNJ

By Michael Zerres

This is a medical malpractice case where the plaintiff alleged that employees of CompleteCare Health Network and Vineland Women’s Health Center, a federally qualified health center, deviated from the standard of care when they failed to timely offer plaintiff proper prenatal screening for Down Syndrome, thereby depriving plaintiff of necessary information to make a fully informed decision as to whether or not to continue her pregnancy. S.M. was born with Down Syndrome.

One of the issues before the Court was whether CompleteCare qualified as a charitable organization under the New Jersey Charitable Immunity Act (“NJCIA”), N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:53A-7(a) and was therefore absolutely or partially immune from liability.

Here, on 12/20/16, the Court determined that there is a distinction between charitable organizations that are nonprofit entities organized for charitable, religious, or education purposes and nonprofit organizes exclusively for hospital purposes. The latter are subject to liability for negligence albeit with a cap on its damages. The Court ruled that CompleteCare is a nonprofit entity organized exclusively for hospital purposes, evidenced further by its 501(c)(3) status by the IRS. The Court thereby granted partial summary judgment in the defendant’s favor, finding that CompleteCare is entitled to the statutory limitation on damages under NJCIA, capping the monetary value the plaintiffs could recover at $250,000.00

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