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New York Court Discusses a Hospital’s Vicarious Liability for Medical Malpractice

In many medical malpractice cases that arise out of negligent care received in a hospital, the plaintiff will not only assert claims against the doctor who provided the treatment in question but will also seek damages from the hospital. Whether a hospital will be found vicariously liable for the acts of a physician depends, in part, on whether the doctor was an employee of the hospital. As discussed in a recent New York opinion, there is an exception, however, that will allow a hospital to be held vicariously liable despite a doctor’s employment status at the time the harm occurred. If you were hurt because of incompetent care in an emergency room, it is advisable to speak to a seasoned Syracuse emergency room malpractice lawyer to evaluate your possible claims.

The Decedent’s Care

It is reported that the decedent was taken by ambulance to the emergency department of the defendant hospital due to complaints of nausea, vomiting, and severe abdominal pain. He was admitted, and shortly thereafter, the defendant surgeon performed an emergency procedure on the decedent. The decedent died the following day. The plaintiff, the decedent’s wife, filed a lawsuit against the defendants asserting wrongful death and medical malpractice claims. After the parties completed discovery, the plaintiff moved for summary judgment on the issue of whether the defendant hospital was vicariously liable for the acts of the defendant surgeon. The court denied the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

A Hospital’s Vicarious Liability for Harm Caused by a Doctor

Generally, pursuant to the doctrine of respondeat superior, a hospital may be found vicariously liable for the malpractice or negligence of employees that are acting within the scope of their employment, but not for the malpractice or negligence of a physician working independently, such as when the patient retains the physician by his or her self.

There is an exception to the rule, though, under which a hospital may be held vicariously liable for the acts of independent doctors if the patient enters the hospital via the emergency room and seeks care from the hospital rather than a certain physician. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the plaintiff met her burden of proving that the emergency room exception should apply. Specifically, she provided evidence showing the decedent was brought to the hospital via ambulance and did not request a certain doctor but was assigned to the defendant surgeon by the hospital. In response, the defendant hospital failed to demonstrate a triable issue of fact existed. Thus, the court reversed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Capable Medical Malpractice Attorney in Syracuse

People go to hospitals with the expectation that they will receive adequate care, and if they do not, both the doctor and the hospital may be held accountable. If you suffered injuries due to emergency room malpractice, you have the right to pursue compensation, and you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, our capable medical malpractice attorneys can set forth compelling arguments on your behalf, to help you seek the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can contact us by calling 315-479-9000 or accessing our form online to set up a meeting.

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