We at the Law Offices of Judy Greenwood, P.C. have litigated medical malpractice cases
against hospitals in Pennsylvania for nearly 40 years. We have held hospitals accountable for the negligence of its agents and employees, and held the hospital corporation accountable for its safety failures, in failing to oversee the care being provided within its hospital and in failing to have adequate systems in place to protect its patients from harm.
Two legal theories provide the underpinnings for imposing liability upon a hospital for negligence. The fist is common to all sorts of commercial activity in Pennsylvania–generally speaking, an employer is responsible for negligence of its employee committed within the course and scope of employment. An injured party can sue either or both, for instance a truck driver and/or his/her employing trucking company. In a hospital setting, this theory of “vicarious liability” can be tricky since not all doctors or other medical personnel who work every day in a hospital are actually its employees—some may be direct actual employees, some could be employed by a company who schedules and pays and supplies its employed staff to a hospital pursuant to a contract with the hospital (frequently radiology staff or emergency department personnel), and yet others may simply be independent physicians with privileges (or permission) to admit and treat patients. Employers of negligent doctors and staff are vicariously liable. Doctors who appear or reasonably seem to be acting as the hospital’s agents (apparent or ostensible agents) can, depending on the facts, impose liability on the hospital though the patient usually will have no knowledge of the employment or agency relationship. Of course, one must still prove the employee’s negligence. Independent doctors merely with privileges at a hospital usually do not implicate the hospital for the doctors’ errors.
The second theory for which a hospital may be liable involves its own direct carelessness. Under Pennsylvania law hospitals must ensure to a patient safety and well being generally broken down into the following areas: (a) maintenance of safe and adequate premises and equipment; (b) selecting and retaining competent physicians (as to those employed or with privileges or working through an intermediate employer); (c) to oversee all who provide medical services at the facility; and (d) to have and enforce policies effective to ensure its patients receive quality care. However, not all patient injuries will result in this direct liability of the hospital as one must show the failure to maintain compliance with the areas of responsibility and to be able to show some sort of actual or implied knowledge of failure, and then of course, medically relate the hospital’s failure to an injury suffered by the patient. For instance, one instance of a doctor’s negligence usually will not implicate this theory regarding competent staff, but the same doctor having a history of the same error might. Conversely, one patient being injured because of a medication error could impose direct liability upon the hospital if one could show the failure to have effective protective policies or failure to train a dispensing nurse with respect to the medicine. Certainly, proven repetition of the carelessness improves the opportunity to succeed in suit, but it is not always absolutely necessary. Again, success lies in the facts and like all medical cases, it requires an attorney with experience and available medical experts to litigate the case.
At the Law Offices of Judy Greenwood, P.C., we have obtained excellent results for our clients in medical malpractice matters including hospital negligence and liability cases, and pride ourselves on our attention to detail and our reputation in the legal community.