California Court Rules Hospital 'Not Liable' for Doctor It Doesn't Employ
The California Court of Appeal for the Fifth District recently ruled that a hospital can be held liable for the medical malpractice of a physician it employs or is its ostensible agent. In the case of Magallanes de Valle v. Doctors Medical Center of Modesto, medical malpractice was alleged against Golden Valley Health Centers (GVHC), Doctors Medical Center of Modesto (DMC), and the plaintiff's personal physician, an employee of GVHC. The plaintiff alleged her doctor negligently performed a vaginal hysterectomy at DMC; the plaintiff had resulting injuries and complications that required readmission; DMC was primarily liable based on the theory the doctor was its ostensible agent; and the corporate defendants were negligent in their selection and review of their medical staff and did not meet the applicable standard of care. DMC filed a summary judgment motion after the remand of the case. DMC was granted summary judgment after the trial court determined the plaintiff knew or should have known that DMC did not employ the physician and that the medical malpractice claim against DMC based on the ostensible agency theory was not permitted by law. After an appeal, the California Court of Appeal for the Fifth District affirmed the earlier decision, saying the plaintiff reasonably should have known the physician was not DMC's agent and used the medical center's facilities to provide surgical care to her patients. The court said the plaintiff should have been aware of this for several reasons, including that the plaintiff was a pre-existing patient of the physician, she selected that doctor has her treating physician, and she decided to undergo surgery under the physician's guidance and on the condition that the physician would be the one performing the procedure.
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