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Understanding vicarious liability in medical malpractice cases

On Behalf of | May 10, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

When something goes wrong in a hospital setting, it can be difficult to determine precisely who is at fault. While some cases are obvious (like a surgeon accidentally nicking an artery), others aren’t. For example, if you’re given the wrong medication, is it the fault of the doctor who typed it in the computer, the pharmacist who reviewed the prescription or the nurse who took the wrong medication from the automated cabinet and administered it to you? 

When someone suffers an injury, they’re sometimes able to hold the organization that employs those responsible liable as well (in this case the hospital). While they may not have directly done anything wrong, this is called “vicarious liability.” Others may have vicarious liability as well. For example, a person’s supervisor may have vicarious liability for the actions of one of their employees.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a case last year

One malpractice case involving vicarious liability made it up to the Ohio Supreme Court last year. It ended in a 4-3 ruling against the plaintiff. It involved a woman who sued a chiropractor for malpractice for rupturing her breast implant. She also sued the chiropractic group he worked for.

In part because the chiropractor moved out of state, by the time he finally got served with papers, the statute of limitations had passed. She tried to continue her vicarious liability suit against his former employer. They argued that they couldn’t have vicarious liability when there was no longer a suit against the chiropractor. 

The majority of the high court agreed. The minority argued that the ruling went against over 100 years of Ohio law that recognized vicarious liability.

In malpractice and other injury cases, it’s crucial to begin legal action as quickly as possible so that you don’t run up against deadlines if there are unforeseen delays. It’s also important to determine precisely what parties can be held liable so that you can make a strong case against all of them. Having sound legal guidance can help you in all of these areas.