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Responsible Parties in Medical Malpractice Actions

Have you or a family member been injured because a doctor failed to properly diagnose or treat a serious health condition? Contact Beale, Micheaels, Slack & Shughart in Phoenix, Arizona.

Medical malpractice liability is not limited to medical doctors. It also extends to nurses, dentists, osteopaths, health care facilities and others providing health care services, such as nursing homes. If you believe that you have been the victim of malpractice by any health care provider, do not delay in contacting an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Beale, Micheaels, Slack & Shughart, P.C. in Phoenix, Arizona.

Individual providers: doctors, nurses and other health care professionals

In addition to doctors and surgeons, a variety of other health care professionals, including dentists, psychiatrists, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, chiropractors and alternative medicine providers, can be held liable for medical malpractice. As with a case against a doctor, to be successful in a medical malpractice case against another health care professional, the plaintiff must prove that the provider owed a duty to the plaintiff, that the provider breached that duty by deviating from the applicable standard of care, that the provider's breach caused the plaintiff harm and that the plaintiff was injured.


In the context of medical malpractice actions, hospitals can be held directly liable for their own negligence, and can also be held “vicariously” liable for the negligence of their employees. Vicarious or derivative liability means a party is held responsible not for its own negligence, but rather for the negligence of another.

Direct hospital negligence

In extending privileges to a physician, a hospital must make reasonable inquiries into a physician's education, training and licensing. If the hospital fails to make reasonable inquiries, it might be held liable under the “corporate negligence” doctrine for negligent privileging or credentialing in the event that physician's negligent care injures a patient. A hospital might be held liable for its own negligence where, for example, it fails to investigate the credentials of an attending physician before granting him or her privileges at the hospital or where it allows a physician whom it knew, or should have known, was incompetent or not qualified to treat patients at the hospital.

Hospitals are also required to ensure that there are sufficient nurses on duty at all times to maintain quality patient care. A hospital that fails to do so may be held liable for injuries to patients resulting from an inadequate nurse to patient staffing ratio. Another area of potential liability arises when a hospital's employees fail to follow the orders of a patient's attending physician. Conversely, if a hospital employee finds a private physician's treatment plan to be clearly contraindicated, but fails to make a reasonable inquiry of the physician as to the treatment plan, the hospital may also be found liable.

Finally, hospitals may be held liable for failing to protect patients from harm, failing to adequately perform clinical tests, neglecting to keep accurate medical records and not properly admitting and discharging patients. In the area of admissions, hospitals are generally required to treat seriously injured or ill people on an emergency basis, and the refusal to do so may result in hospital liability. Additionally, federal and state statutes prohibit hospitals from refusing to treat or admit people based on race, color, religion or national origin, or on inability to pay for treatment.

Vicarious liability

When a hospital employee's malpractice injures a patient, the hospital itself may be held vicariously liable under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. Under this doctrine, an employer may be held liable for the negligent acts of its employee, if the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment when the negligence occurred. This doctrine is important to plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases, because it helps ensure there will be a financially responsible party to compensate an injured plaintiff.

In some situations, health care providers, such as physicians, are considered independent contractors rather than hospital employees, and the doctrine of respondeat superior will not apply. What this means is if a doctor or other health care professional is an independent contractor and commits malpractice while treating a patient in a hospital, the hospital cannot be held liable for the doctor's negligence. However, the hospital can be held liable for its own negligence, for example, in extending privileges to an unlicensed or unqualified physician.

Contact a medical malpractice lawyer

If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of negligent conduct by a health care provider, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can see you through the complicated legal maze of a medical malpractice lawsuit. Contact a medical malpractice attorney at Beale, Micheaels, Slack & Shughart, P.C. in Phoenix, Arizona, today.