Recent Hilbrich Blog Entries

Apparent Agency Alows Indiana Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Against Hospitals

When a patient is injured or killed by negligent doctors, nurses, and staff while admitted at the hospital, one of the many questions the victim and her family ask is “who is responsible?” If the victim must take legal action to obtain compensation for what occurred, it is natural to wonder whether that lawsuit should be against the doctors, the hospital, or both. At times, although it was the doctors who caused the injury or death, it makes the most sense (for practical, personal, or financial reasons) to sue the hospital itself. But what happens when it is revealed that the doctors who provided negligent care were not actually employed by the hospital, but were independent contractors? Fortunately, under Indiana law the hospital can still be held responsible for their actions through two complementary theories known as respondeat superior and apparent agency. Respondeat superior is a legal term which means that an employer, such as a hospital, can be held legally responsible for the negligent actions of its employees. Apparent agency, another legal term, means that even when someone is not actually employed, if the victim reasonably believes that he was employed, the apparent employer such as the hospital can still be held legally responsible. The Indiana Court of Appeals reaffirmed that both these doctrines apply to medical malpractice actions this month in Columbus Regional Hospital v. Clyde Amburgey, Individually and as Executor of the Estate of Moreen Amburgey, 03A01-1110-CT-450. The court went so far as to state that unless a hospital affirmatively discloses that the doctors and staff providing care are not employed by the hospital, the doctrines will generally apply and the hospital can be held legally responsible for their actions. In the Columbus Regional Hospital decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals also affirmed that the doctors themselves need not be sued in order for the hospital to be held responsible. Indeed, the court held that even if an affirmative defense, such as the statute of limitations, would bar an action against the doctors, this does not provide a defense in a suit against the hospital based on the doctors’ actions and the doctrines of respondeat superior and apparent agency. For a free consultation with our top personal injury attorneys, call 877•877•LAW2 (5292) or 219•924•2427.

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