Vicarious liability in Florida malpractice cases

When a doctor in Florida has committed a negligent medical or surgical error resulting in serious harm or death to a patient, both the doctor as well as the facility where the doctor was working at the time may be held liable for the doctor’s negligence. Although understanding the doctor’s potential liability may appear to be relatively straightforward, it is more difficult to understand how the hospital or other care facility may also hold liability in such a case.

An employer may be vicariously liable for the actions of its employees. The liability arises out of a common law legal principle called “respondeat superior,” which means “let the master answer”. Under this principle, an employer may be required to answer legally for the actions of its employees upon a finding that the employee was negligent.

For liability to stand in a medical malpractice situation, it must be shown that the doctor was working for the hospital during his or her normal schedule at the time of the malpractice incident. The hospital must have received some benefit from the physician’s performance of the act, for example, payment received or billed. The legal question often turns on arguments regarding whether the physician was working within the scope of employment, with the hospital pointing to such things as privileges or arguing the doctor was acting as an independent contractor rather than as an employee.

The legal arguments associated with supporting a claim of vicarious liability can be complex. If a plaintiff is successful in making this argument, however, both the doctor and the hospital may be liable for the medical malpractice that caused the resulting death or serious injury. Those in this type of situation may benefit by seeking the help of a medical malpractice attorney.

Source: Findlaw, “Vicarious Liability“, January 02, 2015