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Vicarious Liability: Naming a Hospital as Defendant

Posted by on Oct 21, 2016 in Medical Malpractice | 0 comments

The Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit organization, published a report, titled “To Err Is Human,” in 1999. In the report, it was said that during the 1990s, about 98,000 people died due to preventable medical errors committed by healthcare providers (nurses, doctors and hospitals).

Continuous research, training plus the introduction of modern medical devices were seen as the means to significantly reduce, if not totally end, fatal medical mistakes; however, instead of lowering the number of deaths, fatalities only increased, almost doubling even. Patient deaths in Medicare alone reached 180,000 in 2010, all due to bad hospital care, according to the Office of the Inspector General for Health and Human Services.

Medical professionals have a significant responsibility towards patients under their care. If they fail to provide the standard of care expected of them and cause harm to patients, especially due to negligence or carelessness, then they can be held legally liable.

Liability in a tort (or personal injury) case can result to a person being held responsible for the actions committed, or not performed, by someone else. If applied in a workplace setting, it would mean an employer being held accountable for the actions of his/her employee (or failure to perform some necessary action/s), provided that it can be proven that the employee’s action or lack of action occurred during such employee’s course of employment. Under the law, this is known as vicarious liability.

Vicarious liability, which is often applied in medical malpractice lawsuits, makes hospital negligence the basis of a lawsuit. This move is often resorted to by personal injury or medical malpractice lawyers knowing that the healthcare professional, who committed the injurious mistake, will not be able to afford the full amount of compensation sought by his/her victim. The hospital where the healthcare professional is employed, however, can lean on its insurance carrier to pay the amount that the court will approve. Thus, instead of naming the healthcare professional as defendant in a lawsuit, the defendant becomes the hospital. Besides the purpose of seeking compensation, naming the hospital as defendant is also aimed at sending a message to the hospital owner/s and manager/s: make sure that quality care is always provided to patients in order to prevent further committance of mistakes that will harm patients and make them suffer more.

According to Toronto medical malpractice lawyers, in medical malpractice law, negligence refers to caregivers doing something they should not have done, or not doing something they should have done, measured against the reasonable treatment that should have been done in the circumstances. For a victim of medical malpractice to merit the compensation that he/she seeks from the liable party, he/she must be able to prove to the court that the caregiver’s conduct fell below the standard of care to which he/she, as a patient, is entitled.

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