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New York Court Discusses Liability for Medical Malpractice Committed by Independent Contractors

Many hospitals and medical facilities hire practitioners who work as independent contractors. While hospitals can be held vicariously liable for harm caused by their employees, a patient seeking to imposed liability on a care provider for injuries sustained during treatment by a non-employee must prove the person was acting as an agent of the provider. In a recent opinion, a New York court discussed the evidence needed to demonstrate ostensible or apparent agency in a case arising out of injuries sustained during treatment with an orthopedic therapist. If you were hurt by a careless therapist, you might be owed compensation, and you should speak to a skillful Rochester orthopedic malpractice attorney to assess your rights.

The Alleged Injury

It is reported that the plaintiff’s daughter was undergoing a therapy session at the defendant medical facility. During the session, she received treatment from the defendant therapist, an independent contractor. At some point, she fell off of a scooter and sustained injuries. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice claims against the defendants. Among other things, she alleged that the defendant facility should be held vicariously liable for the harm caused by the defendant independent contractor. The defendant facility filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied. It then appealed.

Demonstrating Ostensible or Apparent Agency

Under New York law, a medical facility may be deemed liable for malpractice committed by its employees but will generally not be deemed liable for harm caused by an independent contractor, even if the facility is affiliated with the independent contractor. A facility may be held accountable for the harm caused by the independent contractor under a theory of apparent or ostensible agency, however.

To establish apparent agency, there must be conduct or words that the principal communicated to a third party that gives rise to the belief and appearance that the agent has the authority to act on behalf of the principal. Further, the third party must rationally rely on the ostensible authority, based on deceptive conduct by the principal. Finally, the third party must accept the services of the agent based on its apparent relationship with the principal and not because of the agent’s skill.

In the subject case, the defendant facility demonstrated that the plaintiff was unaware of it as a company and had no knowledge of its relationship with the defendant therapist. Thus, the court found that the plaintiff could not reasonably establish that she relied upon the relationship between the two defendants when she chose to contract with the defendant therapist. As such, the claims against the defendant facility were dismissed.

Speak with a Trusted Malpractice Attorney

Hospitals that hire negligent providers may be deemed liable for the harm they cause patients to suffer, and if you were hurt during a therapy session by a careless medical professional, you should speak to a trusted orthopedic malpractice attorney to determine your potential claims. The trusted Rochester medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are skilled at aiding injured parties in the pursuit of damages, and we can guide you through the process of seeking the full compensation recoverable under the law. You can reach us through our form online or at 585-653-7343 to set up a meeting.

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