Doctor examining patient

Can You Sue a Hospital for Medical Malpractice?

Hospitals are supposed to be places where you can find relief and healing for your injuries and other health conditions. Unfortunately, some people receive substandard care at hospitals and, as a result, needlessly suffer. If you were harmed instead of helped at a hospital, you are likely wondering who you can hold legally responsible. Can you sue a hospital for your injuries? It’s possible.

Can You Sue a Hospital for Medical Malpractice?

In some cases, a hospital may be held legally responsible for medical malpractice under the legal theory of respondeat superior. Under respondeat superior, an employer can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of an employee who injured a person in the course of their job duties. This legal principle is in place because employers get the benefit of their employees’ work and should thus also carry some of the risk of employing an individual who may be negligent while working.

So, whether you can sue a hospital for medical malpractice can greatly hinge on whose negligence caused you harm. If it was a hospital employee, you are much more likely to be able to hold the hospital liable for your damages. If it was not a hospital employee, however, it is not likely that you will be able to sue the hospital for medical malpractice.

Who is employed by hospital? Usually, nurses are employed by the hospital. Medical technicians are also often employed by the hospital. There are, however, a number of contract workers at hospitals and the hospital will not usually be held responsible for the actions of contract workers. Doctors, for instance, are usually classified as independent contractors and have admitting privileges and certain hospitals. This means that, most of the time, a doctor at a hospital is not actually employed by the hospital in which they are working. So, should a doctor fail to uphold the requisite standard of care in treating a patient, it is unlikely the hospital can be held vicariously responsible for their negligence.

Further still, if a person is injured by a hospital employee while a doctor is supervising that hospital employee, you still might not be able to go after the hospital. It would require a fact specific inquiry into whether the doctor was responsible for supervising the hospital employee at the time the negligent act occurred. It would require looking to whether the doctor was present at the time the negligent act was committed and whether the doctor could exert enough control in that situation as to prevent the negligent act from occurring altogether.

In some cases, however, a doctor may actually be employed by a hospital and, in such cases, a hospital may be legally on the hook for medical malpractice. To determine whether a doctor is employed by the hospital, there will also need to be a fact specific inquiry that looks to the relationship between the doctor and the hospital. Does the hospital have any control over the doctor that would lend itself to an employer-employee relationship? This may include things like the hospital dictating the vacation time and working hours of the doctor. It may also include something like the hospital being able to establish the fee rates charged for the doctor’s services.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

Have you suffered harm due to negligent medical care received in a hospital? Talk to the team at Cooper, Schall & Levy about your legal options for seeking compensation for your injuries. Contact us today.