Medical Malpractice: Vicarious Liability Of Hospitals For Employees Actions


When a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional provides a patient with care that falls below the acceptable standard of care, and the patient is injured as a result, this is known as medical malpractice.  However, the healthcare professional may not be the only one held liable.  In some instances, hospitals can be held liable for the medical malpractice of the health care professional.

Under the doctrine of vicarious liability, a person can be held liable for another person’s acts.  This legal principle most often comes into play in situations involving the liability of employers for their employee’s acts.  Vicarious liability in this situation goes my many different names including the “master and servant” rule, the laws of agency and the relationship between principal and agent, and the doctrine of respondeat superior.  As a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case, vicarious liability of the hospital can be very important to establish.  Oftentimes, the hospital’s insurance will have the resources to provide the injured patient with the proper compensation.


In order to establish the liability of a hospital for the actions of one of their employees the key element is most often to determine whether or not the employee was acting within the “scope of employment” when the negligence that resulted in the injury occurred.  Doctors are not the only health care professionals who can be negligent when it comes to a patient’s care, other hospital employees that can provide patients care.  As a result, the hospital may be vicariously liable for the medical malpractice of many different employees.

Independent Contractors

Cases that involve the negligence of doctors or surgeons on-site can be more complicated.  Some of the doctors may be employed by the hospital, while others are independent contractors who have been awarded privileges to practice at the hospital.  Doctors may be liable for their own negligence but the hospital may only be liable as well if the doctor was also an employee.

To determine whether a doctor was an employee or an independent contract is to look at how much control and supervision the hospital is allowed to exercise over the doctor’s work.  This can be difficult in cases of hospitals and doctors since it can be difficult to determine the appropriate level of supervision and determine what a doctor’s statues is in relation to the hospital.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of medical malpractice, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to determine who can be held liable for the injuries sustained.

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