The Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department (“New York Appellate Court”) in its May 16, 2018 Decision & Order reversed summary judment granted to the defendant hospital in a New York medical malpractice case in which the plaintiff contended that the defendant hospital was vicariously liable for the alleged medical negligence of an ICU physician that harmed the plaintiff.
The plaintiff had been treated at the defendant hospital for surgical removal of a cyst located near her esophagus. After the surgery, the plaintiff developed compartment syndrome in her left thigh. She filed her New York medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital and numerous healthcare professionals, alleging medical negligence in relation to her surgery and treatment.
The defendant hospital and the other defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that they were entitled to summary judgment to the extent that the New York medical malpractice complaint claimed that the defendant hospital was vicariously liable for the alleged medical malpractice of the defendant ICU physician. The trial court granted the motion on the ground that the plaintiff did not identify the ICU physician as a physician for whom the defendant hospital could be held vicariously liable. The plaintiff appealed.
The New York Appellate Court stated that the general rule is that a hospital may not be held vicariously liable for the acts of a physician who is not an employee of the hospital, but is one of a group of independent contractors. However, a hospital may be vicariously liable if a nonemployee physician acted as its agent or if the hospital exercised control over the physician.
The New York Appellate Court stated that in the present case, the defendant ICU physician was an intensivist at the defendant hospital who cared for the plaintiff in the ICU. The defendant ICU physician was the sole intensivist on duty for all four of the defendant hospital’s intensive care units during her shift. The defendant ICU physician only worked at the defendant hospital, and she did not work for her employer at any other site. The defendant hospital claimed that the defendant ICU physician was not under its control and not its agent.
The New York Appellate Court stated that the defendant hospital’s relationship with the defendant ICU physician’s employer and the defendant ICU physician’s relationship with her employer were governed by written agreements and those written agreements were not submitted in support of the the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The New York Appellate Court held that since the defendants failed to submit the agreements or other evidence establishing, prima facie, that the defendant ICU physician was not under the defendant hospital’s control and not its agent when she rendered care to the plaintiff, they failed to demonstrate their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.
Source Castro v. Durban, 2018 NY Slip Op 03503.
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