Archive for July, 2012
Prior to 1940, public hospitals could not be sued for medical malpractice, because they were charitable institutions, rendering a public service. It was known as the doctrine of Charitable Immunity. Most hospitals were supported by churches, mun
icipalities, or universities, and it did not seem right to sue an organization that existed on charity and whose only purpose was healing the sick. Today, hospitals are big businesses and big money makers, and that doctrine has been discarded in just about every state. Hospitals can be sued like any other healthcare provider.
However, when charitable immunity was done away with, some states passed laws limiting the amount a patient could recover from a hospital. This continued to give the hospitals privileged status and protection, and by setting the limit so low, it was not worthwhile to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against them.
What do you do if your infant is brain damaged in a hospital, in a state where your recovery is limited? You find out the names of the hospital employees, who might have been responsible, and your lawyer files suit against them individually. They are not covered by the laws that protect hospitals, and almost all of them have their own medical malpractice insurance. In fact, most union contracts require hospitals to give their employees this protection. So, if you cannot sue the hospital for some reason, or the laws of your state prevent you from getting full compensation, your lawyer will sue the individual hospital employees involved.
The other situation is when a hospital employee or contractor does something outside the scope of his or her employment, especially if it is an unlawful or criminal act. In Pennsylvania, the family of a mental patient in a state hospital sued the state, because she had been sexually assaulted by an attendant. The court held that the state was not responsible for the attendant’s criminal act, which was outside the scope of his employment and which it could not have prevented.
In a Texas case, a patient went to a small hospital late at night after an automobile accident. The nurse on duty took x-rays, told the patient they were negative, and sent him home. No radiologist read the x-rays. The patient developed leg paralysis viagra canada from an undetected fracture and sued both the hospital and the nurse. The judge said the hospital was not liable, because the nurse was not authorized to take or read x-rays and should have called in a radiologist. He assessed damages against the nurse.
The Rule Is: If there are doubts about your ability to recover full compensation from a hospital, your lawyer will name individual employees who were responsible.