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New York Court Explains Vicarious Liability in the Hospital Setting

Under New York law, employers can be held accountable for the negligent behavior of their employees in certain situations. For example, a hospital may be liable for injuries that arise out of incompetent care rendered by a physician it employs. Vicarious liability will only be imposed on hospitals in certain situations, however, as demonstrated by a recent New York ruling issued in a medical malpractice case. If you were injured by a reckless physician in a hospital, you might be able to recover compensation, and you should consult a Rochester medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff underwent surgery at the defendant hospital. Following his procedure, he developed gangrene in his left foot. His foot ultimately had to be amputated. He subsequently instituted medical malpractice claims against the doctor that provided his post-operative care and against the hospital on a theory of vicarious liability. The defendant hospital asked the court to dismiss the claims against them via a motion summary judgment. The court denied the defendant’s motion, after which the defendant filed an appeal.

Vicarious Liability in the Hospital Setting

The trial court ruling was affirmed on appeal. The court explained that generally, pursuant to the doctrine of respondeat superior, a hospital may be held vicariously liable for the malpractice or negligence of its employees while acting within the scope of employment. Hospitals will not be held vicariously liable, however, for negligent care offered by an independent physician, for example, when the doctor is retained by the patient themselves.

The court cautioned that there is an exception to the rule regarding independent physicians that applies when a patient visits an emergency department of a hospital seeking treatment from the hospital in general and not from a specific doctor of the plaintiff’s choosing. The exception also applies when a doctor that is not an employee of the hospital acts as an agent of the hospital or the hospital exercises control over the doctor.

In the subject case, the court found that the defendant hospital failed to offer evidence establishing that the care the defendant doctor offered the plaintiff complied with the good and accepted practice of medicine. Further, the defendants neglected to offer evidence supporting their assertion that the defendant doctor was an independent contractor so as to avoid the imposition of liability under the theory of respondeat superior. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Confer with an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer

People who visit hospitals anticipate they will receive competent care, and if they do not, both the treating physician and the hospital may be liable for malpractice. If you were injured by negligent medical care, you have the right to seek damages, and you should confer with an attorney. The experienced Rochester medical malpractice lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers are proficient at proving careless health care providers should be held accountable for the losses they cause, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us through our form online or by calling us at 585-653-7343 to set up a conference.

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