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Maryland Court Discusses Apparent Agency in Medical Malpractice Cases

People who suffer traumatic injuries in car accidents are often transported to hospitals for medical treatment. If the care they receive while hospitalized is inadequate, though, it may compound their harm and cause new trauma. While hospitals can be held accountable for the harm caused by their employees, it is more difficult to establish liability for losses brought about by physicians who are independent contractors. Recently, a Maryland appellate court discussed what a plaintiff must prove to demonstrate a hospital is responsible for harm caused by a contractor in a medical malpractice case. If you were hurt by a careless doctor, it is advisable to speak with a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your options for seeking damages.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was involved in a car accident that caused critical injuries to his left arm and his legs. First responders arrived at the scene and transported the plaintiff to the defendant hospital’s trauma center, which was located within the same building as the hospital. After he was admitted, the plaintiff was treated by the defendant doctor, who was an independent contractor within his role as an on-call orthopedic surgeon for the center.

Allegedly, when the plaintiff arrived, he was disoriented and confused and was unable to sign the consent form, which stated that the treating physicians were not employees or agents of the hospital. Another party signed on his behalf, however. While he was in the trauma center, the plaintiff’s legs were amputated. He subsequently filed a malpractice claim against the defendants, alleging that if the defendant doctor complied with the standard of care, his right leg could have been saved and that the defendant hospital was vicariously liable for the defendant doctor’s negligence. The trial court ultimately issued a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the hospital, and the plaintiff appealed.

Proving the Existence of an Agency Relationship in a Medical Malpractice Case

The primary issue on appeal was whether the plaintiff established the defendant hospital should be deemed liable under a theory of apparent agency. The apparent agency doctrine is an exception to the general principle that a person who hires an independent contractor is not responsible for the contractor’s negligence. In cases alleging medical malpractice, a plaintiff arguing the apparent agency exception applies must show that the alleged principal acquiesced in or created the appearance of the existence of an agency relationship, the plaintiff held a subjective belief that an agency relationship existed between the principal and agent, and the plaintiff’s belief and reliance on that belief were reasonable.

Here, the court found that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the hospital created an appearance of apparent agency or that he in any way held the belief that an agency relationship existed. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Trusted Maryland Attorney

People who suffer catastrophic injuries need prompt and attentive care, and if the treatment they receive is inadequate, it may be grounds for pursuing medical malpractice claims. If you were harmed by the negligence of a hospital, you might be owed damages, and you should speak to an attorney. The trusted Maryland attorneys of Arfaa Law Group can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can contact us via our online form or at (410) 889-1850 to set up a conference.

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