When Can The Hospital Be Sued For Medical Malpractice?


Were you injured in a hospital while receiving treatment?  Can you sue the hospital?  When a hospital employee, such as a paramedic, nurse, or medical technician is negligent, the hospital is often liable.  However hospitals are often not responsible for the medical malpractice of a doctor.

When Hospitals are Liable for the Actions of their Employees

When a medical professional is an employee of a hospital and that employee hurts a patient because they were acting incompetently then the hospital is liable.  The employee is negligent when he or she does not behave in a reasonably cautions manner when they are treating or caring for a patient.  However, not every unfortunate event or mistake that occurs at a hospital is the result of negligence.

Normally, the nurses, medical technicians, and paramedics who work in a hospital are hospital employees.  If a patient is injured in a hospital by an employee while the employee was performing some job related activity, the patient can then sue the hospital.

However, should a doctor be working in a hospital make a mistake and cause the patient to be injured, the hospital will not be liable for any mistake made by the doctor.  The exception to this is if the doctor is a hospital employee, which is unlikely.

The hospital may also not be liable when their employee committed the malpractice while under the supervision of a doctor.  Should this occur the patient can sue the doctor, but the hospital may then not be liable.  An employee of the hospital is considered to be under the supervision of the doctor when:

  1. The doctor was present when the negligence occurred, and
  2. The doctor was in control and could have prevented the employee’s negligence.

When are Doctors Considered Hospital Employees?

The nature of the doctor’s relationship with the hospital determines whether a doctor is an employee of the hospital.  Most doctors are not employees of hospitals.  Doctors not employed by hospitals are considered independent contractors.  Therefore a hospital cannot be responsible for the medical malpractice of doctors, regardless of whether the medical malpractice occurred in the hospital.

To determine whether a doctor is a hospital employee look at whether:

  • The doctor’s working hours and vacation time are controlled by the hospital, or
  • The fees the doctor can charge are set by the hospital.

A Hospital May Still be Liable for the Actions of Non-Employee Doctors

  1. There is an Appearance that the Hospital Employed the Doctor

In order for the hospital to protect itself from the actions of a non-employee doctor, the hospital needs to make it clear that the doctor is not an employee.  If the hospital does not make it clear the patient can sue the hospital for the doctor’s negligent acts.  Hospitals can avoid this problem by informing patients on admission forms.

  1. An Incompetent Doctor was Kept on the Hospital’s Staff

Some hospitals may be held responsible if they have given staff privileges to incompetent doctors, regardless of whether the doctor is an independent contractor.  This is also the case is also the case if the hospital is aware or should have been aware that a previously safe doctor has become incompetent.

If you or a loved one has been injured while a patient in a hospital, contact an experienced Kingston, New York medical malpractice attorney to evaluate you case and determine who is liable for your injuries.

But what do you think?  I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com.  You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.