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New York Court Explains Vicarious Liability in Medical Malpractice Cases

Doctors frequently work for other physicians or facilities. As such, if a physician’s carelessness causes harm, the injured party may not only be able to pursue claims against the doctor but also the party that employed him or her. In a recent New York opinion, the court explained what a plaintiff must establish to prove a vicarious liability claim against a hospital for negligent care provided by a physician, in a matter where the plaintiff alleged podiatrist malpractice. If you were hurt by the carelessness of a foot doctor, you might be able to pursue claims for damages, and it is advisable to speak to a trusted Syracuse podiatry malpractice lawyer to determine your potential claims.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the plaintiff was referred to the defendant podiatrist by his primary care physician. The plaintiff treated with the defendant podiatrist for a laceration in his big toe. At the time, the plaintiff was working as an independent contractor for the defendant practice and the defendant physician. Due to unspecified harm, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant podiatrist. He then amended the complaint to include claims against the defendant practice and physician, alleging they were vicariously liable. They ultimately moved to dismiss the claims against them via summary judgment.

Vicarious Liability for Medical Malpractice

Pursuant to the doctrine of respondent superior, a doctor or care facility may be deemed vicariously liable for the negligence of its employee. In cases in which no employment relationship exists, they may be vicariously liable under theories of agency, apparent agency, or control in fact. In the subject case, the defendant practice and physician argued they could not be deemed liable for the defendant podiatrist because he was an independent contractor and not an employee, and they did not exercise control over his work performance.

As such, the court assessed whether the theory of apparent or ostensible agency applied. Under a theory of apparent agency, a medical facility can be found liable for the negligence of an independent contractor if the patient sought care from the facility rather than the doctor. Whether the theory applies, though, hinges on whether the patient reasonably could have believed that the doctor was acting on behalf of the facility or was provided by the facility, based on the facts surrounding the treatment. In the subject case, the court found that there was no evidence that the theory of apparent agency applied. Thus, the defendants’ motion was granted.

Speak to a Knowledgeable Syracuse Attorney

When a person suffers harm because of incompetent medical care, both the careless provider and his or her employer may be liable. If you were injured by a negligent podiatrist, you might be able to seek damages via a podiatry malpractice claim. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers, our knowledgeable medical malpractice attorneys take pride in helping injured parties fight to protect their interests, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly to help you seek a favorable outcome. You can contact us via our form online or at 315-479-9000 to set up a conference.

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