Rethinking the Emergency-Room Surprise Billing Crisis: Why Are Patients Liable for Emergency Care They Do Not Seek?


Emergency patients that received unrequested and unconsented to care can be held liable for the entire cost of their medical bills under the common law doctrine of restitution. This Note analyzes the problem faced by these unlucky emergency patients in the American healthcare system billed for exorbitant sums. Rosenwald argues the statutory fixes recently enacted in some states are an important stating point, but they are ultimately insufficient. Reform is needed to better effectuate our sense of fairness and increase transparency within the healthcare market. Rosenwald encourages the legislature and the judiciary to reexamine the scope of the emergency exception in the restitution doctrine to reflect the numerous uncertainties inherent in emergency healthcare.


emergency care, emergency, patient, liability, medical bills, reform, healthcare, restitution doctrine, emergency exception



Elliot S. Rosenwald (Washington University in St. Louis)



Publication details



All rights reserved

Peer Review

This article has not been peer reviewed.

File Checksums (MD5)

  • pdf: df73b81b682ecade8ae27f9126e9d38a