When is a Physician an ‘Agent’ of a Hospital?

January 26, 2016Articles Allegheny County Medical Society Bulletin

When a patient dies unexpectedly in a hospital setting, and there may be some indication of negligence by a physician, plaintiffs’ lawyers try to target as many deep pockets as possible. Not only will they sue the physician responsible for the patient’s care, but increasingly they also will sue the hospital itself. This is even more likely if the lawyer failed to identify and name the responsible physician within the two-year statute of limitations. If the physician is directly employed by the hospital, there could be separate liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior (Latin for “let the master answer”) which makes an employer responsible for the actions of its employees performed within the scope of their employment. But what happens when the physician is not an employee?

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