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Hospital Malpractice: When to Sue?

Hospital Many people labor under the misconception that hospitals can never be sued for malpractice, especially if they are a public hospital receiving state funding. This is not entirely the case - while there are instances where hospitals are held harmless in the face of doctor malpractice, there are some times when hospitals remain on the proverbial hook - usually, when an employee of the hospital has committed malpractice.

Vicarious Liability

Hospitals are liable for their employees' negligent acts under the theory of vicarious liability, which means that an employer is responsible for an employee because they allowed the employee the power and location in which to act. Not every mistake an employee makes will rise to the level of negligence, but if one does, the hospital and the employee will both likely be named in any resulting suit. The other side of such rules is that while hospitals are generally liable for their employees' negligent actions, they are not liable for the acts of independent contractors, guests or trespassers who are not "ostensible agents." Most doctors are not hospital employees - they are independent contractors. If a doctor has full control over their own fees and hours, they are generally not a hospital employee. Nothing in California's General Immunities Act renders public employees (as most hospital employees are) immune from liability for their own negligence. However, it is important to know that there is one exception: there is no liability for injuries resulting from any act that halts the spread of disease and "promotes the public health."

Who is a Hospital Employee?

California case law specifically states that a hospital will be liable for employee actions if the person is an "actual or ostensible agent." In other words, a person does not actually have to be a hospital employee for the hospital to be liable; they merely have to look like one. If a doctor leads a patient to believe that a third person in the room is a hospital employee, any malpractice done by that employee will be held against the hospital. The patient has no duty to inquire further in a situation like that, as well - if someone is held out as an agent of the hospital, it is reasonable that a patient should believe that they are. It is critical to remember that just because a doctor is not an employee of a particular hospital, it does not mean they cannot be sued for malpractice if you were injured by their negligent conduct. It merely means that you may not sue the hospital in addition to the medical professional. Your recovery may be smaller, if you prevail, but you are still entitled to compensation against a negligent doctor if you are able to prove your case.

Get an Experienced Attorney on Your Side

Going up against a medical professional or hospital, even when you know they have been negligent, is still an intimidating undertaking. Having a knowledgeable legal professional on your side can make all the difference. The San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. have years of experience in hospital malpractice cases, and we are happy to try and help get you what you need to move on with life. Contact us today for a free consultation. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo, Monterey, Alameda and San Benito.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.