Can I Sue a Hospital for Medical Malpractice? January 18, 2013.

You may be able to file a claim against a hospital for many reasons, such as if you developed a life-threatening illness or an infection while admitted; if the facility knowingly hired a prescription drug-addicted doctor, surgeon, or staff member who harmed you; or if an accident — such as a fall — occurred while you were supposed to be monitored. To discuss a potential hospital negligence claim, contact us today for a free consultation.

Can I Sue a Hospital for Negligence?

September 4, 2014, abc13 News reported that a 36-year-old woman filed a lawsuit against her hospital for negligence after it misdiagnosed a stroke that left her with speech impairment.

Nearly two years ago, her boyfriend heard a thump, found her on the floor, and called 9-1-1. She was rushed to the hospital which is "nationally recognized for its stroke care" but released her four hours later, without addressing the droop in her face, which her boyfriend pointed out.

"She had stroke symptoms that were so clear when she went to the next hospital they saw it instantly and diagnosed it," her attorney told reporters.

In 2000, a former pro basketball player went to a hospital with typical stroke symptoms and even told staff members that it ran in his family, according to Insurance Journal. The ER doctor misdiagnosed him with sinusitis, prescribed painkillers, and sent him home. The patient wound up returning to the hospital the next day with brain swelling and spent three months in a coma. Six years later, a jury awarded the wheelchair-bound man $217 million, including $100.1 million in punitive damages, which are rarely awarded but are meant to punish the wrongdoer.

Some medical malpractice victims believe they can only sue the doctor or surgeon who hurt them. Depending on the circumstances, however, a number of parties could be held liable, including the hospital, clinic, or urgent care facility that provided treatment. A hospital may be held responsible in two ways: direct negligence and vicarious liability. Direct negligence means that the hospital directly caused or contributed to your injury.

Examples include failing to:

  • check into the background, training, or education of staff members;
  • ensure that there was adequate staff to manage a patient’s care;
  • perform adequate or proper testing;
  • admit or discharge a patient when necessary;
  • keep accurate medical records.

A hospital could also hold vicarious liability for the actions of its employees if those actions result in the injury or harm of a patient. Under the legal doctrine of "respondeat superior," employers can be held legally responsible if one of its employees acts negligently or in error. Many facilities employ physicians on a contract basis, which makes that healthcare provider independent of the facility. This protects the hospital from vicarious liability in the event the doctor commits medical malpractice. The hospital could, however, still be held liable for negligent hiring practices if the doctor was unfit or incompetent.