Courts Have Redefined Hospital Liability for the Malpractice of Independent Physicians

November 21, 2016 Published Work
Connecticut Law Tribune

Plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases have at times sought to hold a hospital liable for the alleged negligent acts of physicians not employed by the hospital. Some cases involve community physicians who treat their patients at the hospital; others involve hospitals contracting with independent physician groups to provide emergency, radiology, anesthesiology or pathology services at the hospital. Plaintiffs' efforts to transcend traditional norms of agency or vicarious liability in claims against hospitals have met with mixed results in Connecticut.

In Cefaratti v. Aranow, 321 Conn. 593 (2016), the Connecticut Supreme Court resolved a difference in opinion among lower courts and recognized tort liability for the negligent acts of an apparent agent. Apparent agency liability is rooted in contract law, but Cefaratti spelled out the parameters for apparent agency liability for medical malpractice. The case involved a surgeon who had left a surgical sponge in the patient's abdominal cavity during gastric bypass surgery. The hospital argued that it could not be liable for the alleged malpractice of a surgeon who had hospital privileges but was not its agent or employee.

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