Can a hospital be liable for the negligence of its staff?
Institutional liability is an important concept in court today, and has become more and more important over the last 50 years. The most common is the Institutional Liability for Sexual Abuse.
Early concepts of institutional liability in regards to hospitals date back to the case of Darling vs. Charleston Community Memorial Hospital in the early 1960's. The plaintiff Darling broke his leg in a college football game and attended the Memorial hospital to get it fixed.
After the doctor put the leg in traction and set it in a cast, Plaintiff began to experience problems and his toes began turning black. By the time that Dr. Alexander removed the cast on there were serious problems and the leg tissue became necrotic.
Despite attempts to save the leg, an amputation had to be made. The Supreme Court in Illinois agreed that the hospital is liable for the severity of the injuries, due to malpractice and awarded a verdict of $150,000.00.
This opened the gates to allow others to make similar claims. However, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff.
The plaintiff must demonstrate that the hospital failed to meet its obligations, did not conform to legal standards of reasonable care, or failed to provide additional care in light of known medical conditions.
The Courts in Illinois determined that an appropriate degree of diversity is required to give patients the required standard of care. This helps to give a holistic view of a problem. State and local laws also help to dictate care standards.
Expert testimony may be required to determine fault, unless the negligence is so gross that it is obvious to an untrained eye - the jury.
Those considering institutional liability must also make considerations based on agency. Liability cannot be laid at the feet of an institution if the doctor who was at fault does not answer to that institution.
Lawyers must therefore consider actual agency and apparent agency. Your lawyer can help you to understand the differences between these types of agency.
These rulings are designed to protect those who have been injured or killed because of medical carelessness or negligence.
However, the rules are very complicated so most people are unable to make a claim without the services of a skilled claims attorney.