Question: Can Hospitals Have Liability For The Acts Of Independent Contractor Physicians That They Employ?
Answer: Yes. In the area of hospital liability, there has been an ongoing movement by courts to use apparent or ostensible agency as a means by which to hold hospitals vicariously liable for the negligence of some independent contractor physicians. Many of these cases employ the doctrine of apparent agency when the plaintiff was negligently injured by a physician’s actions while visiting the hospital’s emergency room. Courts, however, also have employed the doctrine of apparent agency to hold a hospital liable for assertedly negligent acts committed in non-emergency room settings. Generally, the courts employ a test which focus primarily on 2 basic factors. The first focuses on the hospital’s manifestations and is sometimes described as an inquiry whether the hospital acted in a manner which would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the individual who was alleged to be negligent was an employee or agent of the hospital. The second focuses on the patient’s reliance. It is sometimes characterized as an inquiry as to whether the plaintiff acted in reliance upon the conduct of the hospital or its agent, consistent with ordinary care and prudence.