Maryland Court Discusses Hospital Liability and Corporate Negligence in Medical Malpractice Case

It is not uncommon for an injured plaintiff to bring a medical malpractice claim against more than one defendant on differing theories of negligence.  In a March 21, 2017 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a negligence and wrongful death action brought by the surviving plaintiffs against a doctor, the hospital that employed the doctor, and the member companies of the hospital.  The circuit court subsequently granted summary judgment in favor of the member companies.  On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that its claims against the member companies should have been allowed to proceed under theories of general corporate negligence and apparent agency.

The decedent in the case had experienced severe chest pain and was examined by the defendant doctor at the hospital.  On the next day, the doctor discharged the decedent with instructions to take medications as needed and follow up with a cardiology referral for further investigation of his condition.  On the next morning, the decedent passed away.  An autopsy revealed that he died from hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, with significant blockages in several arteries in his heart.

The plaintiffs first argued that the member companies were liable because they breached their duty to provide emergency room protocols for the evaluation and treatment of emergency room patients with cardiac or cardiac-like symptoms.  However, the appeals court pointed out that such a legal duty would be upon the hospital to ensure the patient’s safety and well-being, rather than its parent corporations, i.e., the defendants.  Furthermore, a parent corporation is generally not liable for the acts of its subsidiaries, absent the piercing of the corporate veil to prevent fraud or to enforce equity.

Despite the opinion of the plaintiffs’ expert that the corporate member defendants were equally responsible for the lack of protocols, the court found that there were no facts or reasons for his opinion regarding the standard of care for parent entities of a hospital.  As a result, the court held that his deposition testimony was inadmissible on the issue.  In addition, the court noted that although an expert may establish a standard of care and a breach of that standard of care, an expert cannot establish the existence of a legal duty.

Second, the plaintiffs contended that the apparent authority claim was based on how the corporate defendants portrayed their relationship with the defendant hospital.  According to the plaintiffs, the corporate defendants gave the impression to the public that they were principals of the hospital.  On appeal, the court found that there was nothing in the record evidencing that the decedent was aware of the affiliation between the hospital and its parent corporations.  Thus, the decedent could not have held any subjective belief nor relied on any belief that the corporate defendants were agents of the hospital.  Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed.

The Maryland injury attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can provide trusted legal guidance after an accident or medical injury.  We have represented people in many kinds of negligence and medical malpractice lawsuits, helping them pursue compensation for economic and emotional losses caused by other individuals and businesses. To schedule an initial consultation, contact our office by phone at (301) 441-2022 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Plaintiffs May Bring Wrongful Death Action Despite Successful Personal Injury Claim of Decedent, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 15, 2016

Maryland Court Reviews $185,000 Jury Award to Plaintiff in Medical Negligence Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published December 23, 2016

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