Whether a hospital may or may not be held liable for the negligence of a physician or staff member depends on a number of factors, including whether the doctors are employees of the hospital, or independent contractors. In a July 20, 2021 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a medical malpractice claim against a hospital for the alleged negligence of its doctors under an apparent agency theory.
The plaintiff in the case was badly injured in a car accident on the Capital Beltway. He was transported to the hospital in an ambulance, during which time the plaintiff testified that he was in and out of consciousness. It was undisputed that the doctor who treated the plaintiff at the hospital’s trauma center was an independent contractor. Ultimately, after multiple surgeries, the plaintiff’s legs were amputated above the knee, and his left arm was permanently damaged.
The plaintiff brought claims against the doctor and hospital, alleging that the doctor was negligent in providing medical and surgical care, and that the hospital was vicariously liable for the doctor’s alleged negligence under a theory of apparent agency. Following a trial, the jury returned a verdict against the doctor, finding that he committed medical malpractice, and against the hospital, finding that the doctor was its apparent agent. The plaintiff was awarded economic and noneconomic damages of over 6 million dollars. The trial court, however, granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the hospital as to the issue of apparent agency. The plaintiff then sought review from the appeals court.