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Court Discusses Vicarious Liability in Medical Malpractice Cases in New York

If a patient is harmed by incompetent medical care provided in a hospital, the patient may not only be able to pursue claims against the negligent medical provider, but he or she may also be able to pursue claims against the hospital as well. Whether a hospital can be held liable for medical malpractice depends on the facts surrounding the patient’s harm and the relationship between the doctor and the medical provider, as discussed in a recent case decided by a court in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York. If you were harmed by insufficient care in a hospital, you should meet with a skillful Rochester hospital malpractice attorney to assess what claims you might be able to pursue.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the plaintiff visited the emergency department of the defendant hospital in April 2009, with complaints of shortness of breath and chest pain. He was admitted to the defendant hospital, where he was treated by the defendant physician, who was a volunteer. Subsequently, a cardiologist, who was not an employee of the hospital, performed a cardiac catheterization on the plaintiff. A few weeks after the procedure, the plaintiff visited a second hospital due to pain and bleeding in his groin. He was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis in his thigh and groin and underwent surgery to remove the necrotic tissue.

It is alleged that he then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants, alleging they negligently failed to diagnose and treat a hematoma in his groin in a timely manner, which led to necrosis. The defendants each filed a motion for summary judgment. The court granted the motions, and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the court vacated the earlier orders and denied the defendants’ motions. The defendants then appealed.

Hospital Liability for Medical Malpractice

On appeal, the defendant hospital argued that it could not be held vicariously liable for the negligent acts of the defendant physician, because he was not an employee. The court stated that in general, a hospital may be held liable for the negligence of its employees but not for inadequate treatment provided by an independent doctor.

The court explained, however, that there was an exception to this general rule, that arises when a patient seeks to hold a hospital liable for the malpractice of a physician who is not an employee, if the patient sought treatment in a hospital’s emergency room and not from a certain physician chosen by the plaintiff. As such, a defendant hospital seeking to avoid vicarious liability must show that the allegedly negligent physician was not an employee, and the exception to the rule does not apply.

In the subject case, the court found that while the defendant hospital proved that the defendant physician was not its employee, it failed to show that the plaintiff went to the emergency room to treat with a specific doctor, rather than seeking treatment from the hospital itself. As such, the court found that a triable issue of fact existed as to whether the hospital could be held vicariously liable for the defendant physician’s alleged negligence.

Speak with a Trusted Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you were harmed by negligent medical care you received in a hospital, it is prudent to speak with a trusted hospital malpractice attorney regarding what damages you may be owed. The seasoned attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers will work tirelessly to assist you in your pursuit of a successful result. You can reach us through our form online or at 585-653-7343 to set up a meeting.

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