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What is vicarious liability?

On Behalf of | Mar 18, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is not limited to how medical doctors and other professionals conduct themselves. It also can apply to the hospital itself. In terms of suing a hospital directly for medical malpractice, you can do so on the basis of the hospital’s own negligence or you can do so on the basis of vicarious liability.

Which one you choose depends on your particular case. According to FindLaw, vicarious liability is when a party is not negligent itself, but is responsible for the negligence of another entity.

How does this work in terms of medical malpractice?

In the event that you can sue the hospital for vicarious negligence, you are doing so under a specific legal doctrine: “respondeat superior.” Under this doctrine, you may sue the hospital for the negligent acts of a hospital employee. In order for this to apply, the employee must have been acting within the scope of their employment when committing the act of negligence.

The concept of respondeat superior is very important to plaintiff’s in the vast majority of medical malpractice cases. Respondeat superior ensures that there is a financially responsible party in the event that an individual sustains an injury as a result of a hospital employee’s negligence or malpractice.

When does this not apply?

This doctrine may not apply in all situations, and this is because not everybody who works at a hospital is an employee of the hospital itself. It is possible that some physicians are actually independent contractors. If this is the case, then respondeat superior does not apply.

However, it is still possible for a hospital to retain liability in terms of contracted employees making use of outpatient facilities or emergency rooms of the hospital.