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Why This California Hospital Was Found “Not Liable” for a Botched Procedure

BIKLaw Medical Malpractice Lawyer > Medical Malpractice > Why This California Hospital Was Found “Not Liable” for a Botched Procedure

In any medical malpractice case, others may be liable beyond the medical professional who provided negligent care. Any party whose careless conduct contributed in some way to the medical error or injury is potentially liable for damages. This includes entities like doctors’ offices and hospitals whose employees commit negligent acts.

It may be surprising, then, to learn that a recent California Court of Appeals decision from the Fifth District appears to find just the opposite. In Magallanes de Valle v. Doctors Medical Center of Modesto, the Court of Appeals found that a hospital was not liable for the medical malpractice committed by a doctor who performed surgery there.

The Victim’s Injuries and Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

In this case, the victim and patient suffered injuries during a hysterectomy negligently carried out by her personal physician. She sued her doctor, the medical group that employed the doctor, and Doctors Medical Center (DMC), which was the facility where the procedure was performed.

In her lawsuit, the injured patient claimed DMC should be liable for compensating her because her personal physician was an apparent agent of the hospital. California law allows hospitals and medical facilities to be sued and held responsible for the actions of those who are considered apparent agents.

Liability of Hospitals Under Apparent Agency Theory

Under most circumstances, individuals and businesses that employ independent contractors are not liable for any negligent conduct committed by those contractors. 

However, sometimes an independent contractor appears to be working on behalf of the facility or employed by the facility. In that case, the facility may be responsible for that contractor’s careless actions.

Why Was DMC Not Liable in Magallanes de Valle v. Doctors Medical Center of Modesto?

In this case, the Court of Appeals found that the patient’s doctor was not an apparent agent of DMC. Because there was no apparent agent relationship between DMC and the patient’s doctor, DMC was not responsible for this patient’s injuries.

There were several facts that the Court of Appeals found to be important. First, the court noted that the doctor was already treating the patient and had been the patient’s doctor before the procedure. This was a voluntary choice on the part of the patient; she was not required to have sought treatment from this particular doctor.

Moreover, the court saw that the patient had agreed to undergo the hysterectomy after consulting with the doctor alone and not with DMC. The patient had not contracted with or agreed to receive surgical care from DMC but rather from her doctor. 

Under all of these facts, the court found that the patient did not have any reason to believe her doctor was acting as an agent of DMC.

Call Your Experienced California Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

The Trial Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. will fight to hold those who have committed medical malpractice responsible for the physical and mental harm you or your loved one has suffered. Contact us today and ask for a free initial case consultation.

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