What should I know about vicarious liability?

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

One of the first things you must determine when filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is who, exactly, is responsible for the malpractice. It is very common for there to be a great deal of confusion whether it is the hospital or the physician at fault.

It is possible for the courts to hold a hospital vicariously liable for the actions of its employees. According to FindLaw, this is “respondeat superior” under the law.

What is respondeat superior?

The phrase translates to ”let the master answer.” Essentially, this legal principle holds an employer at fault for the negligence of its workers in specific circumstances. However, the hospital is not always responsible for the actions of the physicians that work there.

In order for the respondeat superior to apply, the physician must be acting within his or her “scope of employment.” However, defining the “scope of employment” can be very difficult and is often a major feature in medical malpractice cases.

When does respondeat superior apply?

In order to hold a hospital legally responsible for the action of a physician, the physician must have caused the injury while he or she was on the clock. Additionally, the injury must be a result of an activity that the hospital hired the physician to perform. Finally, the hospital must benefit in some way from what the physician was doing at the time the injury occurred.

The concept of respondeat superior does not only apply to hospitals. It may also apply to a doctor giving orders to lower staff members that then act negligently. It is also possible for an attending physician to be responsible for negligence on the part of medical students or interns if they are under the guidance of the physician.


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