Is a Hospital Responsible for the Negligence of Physicians?

Is a Hospital Responsible for the Negligence of ER Physicians?

In addition to being held liable for its employees, a hospital may be vicariously liable for the medical malpractice of independent contractors. Contreras v. Adeyemi, 102 A.D.3d 720 (2nd Dep't 2013).  A hospital may be vicariously liable for a physician's malpractice when a patient seeks medical care from the hospital rather than from a particular physician, even when the allegedly negligent physician was not a hospital employee. Johnson v. Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, 21 A.D.3d 881, 800 N.Y.S.2d 609 (2nd Dep't 2005); Henderson v. Marx, 251 A.D.2d 988, 674 N.Y.S.2d 247 (4th Dep't 1998).  This is known as the "Mduba" doctrine in New York. Mduba v. Benedictine Hospital, 52 A.D.2d 450 (3rd Dep't 1976).

The Mduba doctrine holds that vicarious liability can be predicated against a hospital for the negligence of an independent contractor, i.e., ER physician, on the theory of apparent or ostensible agency.  "Patients entering the hospital through the emergency room, could properly assume that the treating doctors and staff of the hospital were acting on behalf of the hospital. Such patients are not bound by secret limitations as are contained in a private contract between the hospital and the doctor." Mduba, supra. The court in Mduba also intimated that the performance of the ER function was a "nondelegable" duty of the hospital. New York's Court of Appeals acceped the underlying rationale of Mduba in Hill v. St. Clare's Hospital, 67 N.Y.2d 72, 499 N.Y.S.2d 904 (1986).

The applicability of the Mduba doctrine depends upon whether the patient could have reaosnably believed, based upon all of the surrounding circumstances, that the treating physician was provided by the hospital or clinic or was otherwise acting on the hospital's or clinic's behalf. Casucci v. Kenmore Mercy Hospital, 144 A.D.2d 910 (1988); Augeri v. Massoff, 134 A.D.2d 308, 309 (1987).

Is a Hospital Responsible for the Negligence of Radiologists and Pathologists

A hospital may be potentially liable for the actions of a doctor who was part of an independent group of radiologists who only provided radiology services for patients of the hospital and could not take outside patients. Sampson v. Contillo, 55 A.D.3d 588, 865 N.Y.S.2d 634, 637 (2nd Dep't 2008). 

Under certain circumstances, a hospital may be vicariously liable for the negligence of a consulting physician at another hospital. In Brink v. Muller, 86 A.D.3d 894, 927 N.Y.S.2d 719, 721-722 (3rd Dep't 2011), neurologists at other hospitals were consulted by an ER physician and the court held that an issue existed as to whether ostensible agency rendered the hospital liable for the neurologist's alleged malpractice.

Have Questions about Hospital Liability for Physicians?

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