When a hospital employee, such as a technician, provides negligent care on behalf of a patient, that individual may have a claim against the hospital. That same hospital may not be responsible for the medical malpractice of a physician.
Florida Hospitals are Liable for Employee Actions
Nurses, medical technicians, and support staff are all hospital employees. When a hospital employee is performing a job that is employment related, and injury is caused to a patient as a result of the employee’s negligence, the hospital is usually responsible. If a doctor is an employee of the hospital and makes a mistake, an injured patient may also have a claim against the hospital. In many instances, however, the doctor will not be an employee of the hospital.
Is a St. Petersburg Doctor a Hospital Employee?
In order to determine if a patient has a claim against the hospital when a physician provides sub-standard care, it is necessary to determine if the doctor is an employee of the hospital. Whether a doctor is a hospital employee depends on the nature of his or her relationship with the facility. Though some doctors are hospital employees, where the hospital controls the physician’s working hours and sets the fees that the doctor can charge, most doctors are not employees and are instead classified as “independent contractors.” With an independent contractor physician, even when malpractice occurs at the hospital, the facility cannot usually be held responsible for the doctor’s actions.
Florida Exceptions to Hospital Liability for Independent Contractor Physicians
In those instances, where the physician is an independent contractor rather than an employee, there are some Florida exceptions for when the hospital is still liable for the doctor’s actions:
Hospital Appeared to be the Doctor’s Employer
If the hospital does not make it clear to a patient that the doctor is not an employee, the patient can sue the hospital for the doctor’s malpractice. Hospitals attempt to avoid this problem by informing patients in the admission forms that the doctor is not a hospital employee.
The situation is different for patients injured in an emergency room. Usually, the hospital does not have an opportunity to inform emergency room patients that a doctor is not an employee. This means that emergency room patients can often sue the hospital for a doctor’s medical malpractice.
Hospital Retains an Incompetent Physician on Staff
A hospital may be responsible if it should have known that a previously safe doctor had become incompetent or dangerous. For example, if a doctor becomes severely addicted to drugs and the hospital management knew about it, or it was so obvious they should have known about it, a patient injured by that doctor may have a claim against the hospital.
Recent Florida Decision Found Hospital Liable
A recent Florida case allowed a patient to pursue a claim against the hospital for the alleged medical malpractice of independent physicians who provided services at the hospitals. The case of Roessler v. Novak, 858 So.2d 1158, involved a patient who presented at the emergency department of a Sarasota County, Florida hospital. He was diagnosed as suffering from pneumonia and a perforated viscus. The radiologist interpreting the abdominal CAT scans agreed with the diagnosis of a perforated viscus, and the patient was scheduled for surgery. Although he survived the surgery, the patient later developed complications from abdominal abscesses that necessitated a 2.5-month hospital stay.
The radiologist was an independent contractor and not an employee of the hospital. The patient sued the hospital for medical malpractice and the court found that the Florida hospital could be held liable for the radiologist’s actions through an “apparent agency” theory, if the otherwise independent contractor “appeared” to the public as the hospital’s agent.
St. Petersburg Medical Malpractice Attorneys
When an individual is a victim of medical malpractice, it is important to speak to a St. Petersburg medical malpractice lawyer. These victims may be able to recover significant compensation for their injuries and damages such as lost employment or future wages. A medical malpractice case can be very complicated with strict deadlines involving both legal and medical issues under Florida law making it necessary to retain an experienced attorney with a track record of success in this area. The attorneys at the Dolman Law Group are skilled malpractice attorneys and they are ready to review and evaluate your case to determine what compensation you may be entitled to receive. Contact Dolman Law Group today at 727-222-6922 to schedule your free legal case evaluation and consultation.
Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712