Maryland Court Discusses a Hospital’s Vicarious Liability Under the Doctrine of Apparent Agency

It is not uncommon for Maryland hospitals to hire doctors to work as independent contractors in their emergency rooms. If such physicians make mistakes that ultimately make mistakes that harm patients, the hospital typically will not be held vicariously liable for the doctor’s negligence. There are exceptions, though, such as liability based on the doctrine of apparent agency, as demonstrated in a recent Maryland medical malpractice case. If you were injured due to negligent care in a hospital setting, you might be owed damages, and it is prudent to meet with a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer to determine your possible claims.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff visited the defendant hospital’s emergency room following a motorcycle collision that caused him to suffer critical harm. While at the hospital, he suffered further injuries due to the negligence of the trauma surgeon that operated on him. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit seeking damages from both the surgeon, for medical malpractice and the hospital, for vicarious liability.

Allegedly, the hospital argued that it could not be vicariously liable for the acts of the surgeon as he was an independent contractor, not an employee.  The case proceeded to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, finding that the surgeon was an agent of the hospital and the hospital was vicariously liable for his negligence. The hospital moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and the court granted the motion. The plaintiff appealed.

A Hospital’s Vicarious Liability Under the Doctrine of Apparent Agency

On appeal, the intermediate appellate court’s opinion was reversed. The sole issue presented on appeal was whether the surgeon was an agent of the hospital and, if so, whether the hospital could be held liable his negligence.

The court ultimately held that there was ample evidence that the surgeon acted as the agent of the hospital, and therefore, the hospital could be liable for his negligence. Specifically, the court noted that the surgeon acted with the apparent consent of the hospital to act on its behalf, and was subject to his control, and the surgeon acted as the hospital’s agent willingly.

The court also referred to two other Maryland cases that arose out of a similar set of facts in which the court found that emergency room doctors were the apparent agents of the hospitals in which they worked. Based on the foregoing, the court reinstated the jury’s verdict.

Confer with a Maryland Attorney About Your Case

Hospitals may be deemed vicariously liable for the negligent acts of their employees and in some cases, of their independent contractors as well. If you were injured by a careless doctor in a hospital, you might be able to recover damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit, and you should confer with an attorney. The skilled Maryland attorneys of Arfaa Law Group can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the maximum damages recoverable under the law. You can reach us through our online form or by calling us at (410) 889-1850 to set up a meeting.

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