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When Are Hospitals Responsible For Medical Negligence?


Jane suddenly suffers severe lower extremity trauma during a soccer tournament. Ben awakes with unrelenting chest pain and pressure. Mary, driving home from work, is hit head-on suffering multiple fractures and wounds. Jake develops flu symptoms one early evening. Many different situations can lead to a hospital or medical facility visit.   Often, the patient may choose a particular hospital or clinic. Rarely, however, do they have any choice in the doctor rendering care.

This is because patients usually have no prior relationship with hospital or clinic medical professionals. In such situations, patients often never see or meet the medical professionals making decisions regarding their care. Due to this, patients often believe that they are being treated by the facility’s employees and that the facility will be responsible for the care they receive.

However, by carefully drafting service contracts, medical facilities have tried to benefit from staffing highly trained medical professionals without being responsible for the quality of their care. This left patients with potentially inadequate resources to make them whole when injured by medical negligence. The question of whether medical facilities should be held responsible for medical professionals who act as part of their medical team began being raised in Connecticut’s trial courts.

For years, most trial courts answered this question “yes.” Those facilities had held certain professionals out as their own were liable for the actions of their “apparent agents” regardless of phantom agreements that stated otherwise. However, some courts took the hospital’s side, and people injured by medical negligence were forced to accept inadequate results.

Recently, this issue was addressed by the Connecticut Supreme Court. The Court decided that Connecticut hospitals and other medical facilities should not be able to avoid liability so easily.

In the case of Lisa J. Cefaratti v. Jonathan S. Aranow, et al, the Supreme Court established two legal standards that determine the circumstances under which a hospital or other medical facility will be held responsible for the negligence of medical treaters providing services. The situation where a medical facility will most likely be held responsible is when proof is shown that it holds itself out as providing certain services to the public; a patient selects the facility based on the representations made to the public; and when the facility rather than the patient chooses the specific person who performs medical services.

Public policy considerations were important to the Supreme Court’s decision. One of which was a patient choice. Whether patients chose the medical provider who treats them in any given facility makes a difference. The Court recognized that medical emergencies, and the nature of many medical services, preclude patient choice of treating physicians. For example, most patients brought to an emergency room do not choose which physicians examine them, which radiologists interpret their x-rays, or which surgeons perform emergency surgery on them. If however, patients chose their medical treater, the Court established a different and more difficult standard of proof before the facility will be liable for the treater’s negligence.

The Court’s decision reflects today’s reality: hospitals and other medical facilities are businesses wooing the public. Hospitals are increasingly creating integrated health care delivery systems. They heavily promote their services and medical teams advertising on television, billboards, and websites. Under these circumstances, public policy supports a patient’s right to assume and anticipate that the care provided is in line with what the medical facility has promoted and advertised.

Although the Supreme Court addressed the issue of apparent agency in the context of a medical malpractice case, its holding was broader and applies to many other types of tort cases.

If you or a loved one is ever the victim of a surgical error, a defective drug, the improper prescription of a drug therapy, over-exposure to medical radiation, a hospital-acquired infection, a fall while in the hospital, a preventable blood clot, a misdiagnosis, or any form of medical malpractice, call a qualified Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer. A knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer can help to ensure that your rights are protected.

RisCassi & Davis has handled hundreds of medical malpractice cases over our more than 60 years serving the people of Connecticut.

What’s more, our Connecticut medical malpractice lawyers have received local and national recognition for our handling of these cases.

We have a great team of legal experts dedicated to medical malpractice in Connecticut.   Please contact us if we can help you. 

The consultation is free and there is no obligation of any kind.

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