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Atraqchi v. GUMC Unified Billing Services

January 10, 2002

MICHAEL & IRENE ATRAQCHI, APPELLANTS
v.
GUMC UNIFIED BILLING SERVICES, ET AL., APPELLEES



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CA-1780-00) (Hon. Herbert B. Dixon, Jr., Trial Judge)

Before Schwelb, Farrell and Reid, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reid, Associate Judge

As amended June 12, 2002.

MICHAEL & IRENE ATRAQCHI, APPELLANTS
v.
GUMC UNIFIED BILLING SERVICES, ET AL., APPELLEES

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CA-1780-00) (Hon. Herbert B. Dixon, Jr., Trial Judge)

Michael R. Atraqchi and Irene S. Atraqchi, pro se. Michael M. Hicks was on the brief for appellees Gumc Unified Billing Services, Rita A. Manfredi, John M. Howell, Ronald S. Colson and Sheilene Scott. Ronald M. Abramson was on the brief for appellee Wolpoff & Abramson.

Before Schwelb, Farrell and Reid, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reid, Associate Judge

Submitted December 11, 2001

Appellants Michael and Irene Atraqchi appeal from the dismissal of their pro se civil action against Georgetown University Hospital ("Georgetown"); GUMC Unified Billing Services; and five treating physicians. *fn1 Their principal contention on appeal is that the trial court dismissed their lawsuit prematurely. We affirm the trial court's dismissal of count II of the Atraqchis' amended complaint, which involves allegations of fraudulent billing. However, because count I fairly put the appellees on notice that the major claim was negligent medical treatment, rather than a civil rights violation, we reverse the dismissal of that count and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

FACTUAL SUMMARY

The record on appeal shows that on March 16, 2000, Mr. and Mrs. Atraqchi filed an amended complaint against several defendants in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, with counts sounding in medical malpractice, fraudulent concealment of billing and conspiracy. The amended complaint makes the following allegations. On or about January 1999, Mr. and Mrs. Atraqchi "suffer[ed] from an ailment that caused a swelling to both ankles and feet . . . ." Dr. Twet (Brenda) Ngwa of the U.D.C. Health Center initially diagnosed their condition as "venous insufficiency." The Atraqchis followed the advice given by Dr. Ngwa, which included no medication or treatment, *fn2 but their condition worsened to the extent that they had to be taken to the Georgetown Medical Center emergency room. There, Dr. Rita Manfredi assigned Dr. John Howell to the Atraqchis' case and "both affirmed the earlier diagnosis as venous insufficiency. . . ." No x-rays were taken, and the Atraqchis were told to follow the same advice that had been given by Dr. Ngwa. Dr. Howell referred Mr. Atraqchi to Dr. Ronald S. Colson. Dr. Colson examined him on June 24, 1999, and stated that "his venous insufficiency does not confirm (sic) to the classical course of the ailment . . . ." No x-ray was taken. Mr. Atraqchi and Dr. Colson were unable to obtain his medical records from the emergency room doctors at Georgetown, even though the order had been placed thirty days earlier. The emergency room doctors "continued refusing to transmit [the records] to [Dr.] Colson even when he called them personally on the day of the appointment in the presence of [Mr.] Atraqchi."

Later, on October 12, 1999, the Social Security Administration referred the Atraqchis to Dr. Gerald Shugoll when they sought to apply for disability due to their weakened condition. Dr. Shugoll advised the Atraqchis that the diagnosis of venous insufficiency was "wrong," but ...


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