Vicarious liability and how it applies to medical malpractice

Medical malpractice cases are somewhat complicated because in many instances, there may be other California parties that can be held liable for medical negligence or error than just the doctor that performed the malpractice. The legal doctrine of vicarious liability often comes into play, and under certain circumstances the hospital where the malpractice occurred may also be held liable for the negligent act.

The Legal Dictionary explains that vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that imputes responsibility for injuries committed by a person to the entity that possesses a specific legal relationship with the person that performed the injury. This doctrine can be applied to relationships between a child and a parent, a spouse and his or her spouse, and an employer and employee. In the case of employers and employees, vicarious liability takes the form of the doctrine of “respondeat superior,” a doctrine that holds that an employee’s negligence occurred as part of the employee’s scope of employment.

Findlaw states that vicarious liability can be a factor when it comes to medical malpractice. In the event the employee of a hospital causes injury to a patient, the hospital could be held liable for the malpractice under the respondeat superior doctrine. In this case, if the hospital employee acted within the regular scope of employment when the malpractice occurred, the hospital can be held responsible.

However, not all malpractice qualifies for a vicarious liability. Some health care providers are not direct employees of a hospital, but are independent contractors. Should a doctor or a medical professional who is also an independent contractor conduct malpractice in a hospital, the hospital is not vicariously liable. However, in some cases where a hospital retains contractors for emergency room or outpatient facility operation, the hospital may still be held vicariously liable.

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