Many hospitals throughout New York engage staffing companies to provide physicians to offer medical services to their patients. In other words, many of the doctors who work at such hospitals are considered independent contractors rather than employees. While hospitals may be deemed vicariously liable for the negligent acts of their employees, they generally will not be held responsible for the incompetence of independent contractors that work for them. There are exceptions to the general rule, however, as discussed in a recent New York opinion set forth in a hospital malpractice case. If you sustained injuries due to a careless physician working in a hospital, it is in your best interest to confer with a Rochester medical malpractice lawyer to determine what claims you may be able to pursue.
The Plaintiff’s Harm
Allegedly, the plaintiff visited the defendant hospital with complaints of pain in his lower hip and back. He was seen by a nurse practitioner, who ordered a urine culture, a urine dipstick, and an abdominal x-ray. He was discharged with a diagnosis of acute cystitis and prescribed an antibiotic. Four days later, when the results of his urine culture were negative, he was advised to discontinue the medication. The defendant doctor, who was an independent contractor retained by the defendant staffing company, signed off on the documentation regarding the plaintiff’s care.
It is reported that three days later, the plaintiff began experiencing changes in his mental status. He was subsequently diagnosed with bacterial meningitis at another hospital and remained hospitalized until mid-April. He subsequently filed a medical malpractice lawsuit alleging, in part, that the defendant hospital was vicariously liable for the harm caused by the defendant doctor and the defendant staffing company. The plaintiff then moved for summary judgment.
A Hospital’s Vicarious Liability for Independent Contractors
Generally, under New York law, a party who retains an independent contractor instead of an employee is not liable for the independent contractor’s negligent acts. There are a series of exceptions that apply to the general rule, however, that fall under three categories: negligence in the employer’s selection in training, selecting, or supervising the contractor; where the work involved is inherently dangerous; and where the employer’s duty is nondelegable.
In the subject case, the court ultimately found that it would not be appropriate to find that the defendant hospital was vicariously liable for the acts of the defendant staffing company and defendant doctor as a matter of law, as those issues should be determined by a jury. As such, it dismissed the plaintiff’s motion.
Consult a Skillful Rochester Attorney
If a person suffers injuries because of inadequate care rendered by a doctor at a hospital, both the doctor and the hospital may ultimately be held accountable for the plaintiff’s harm. If you have questions regarding the damages you may be able to recover for hospital malpractice, it is advisable to consult an attorney. The skillful Rochester attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the maximum amount of compensation recoverable under the law. We can be reached through our online form or at 585-653-7343 to set up a conference.