Recently, a medical malpractice plaintiff appealed a trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of a hospital system. The case arose when the plaintiff visited a Florida hospital for appendicitis and an abscess. An on-call surgeon met with the plaintiff; however, the plaintiff felt uneasy with the surgeon and requested another doctor. The next doctor was not available until the next morning, so the plaintiff proceeded with the surgeon. The plaintiff requested antibiotics after the surgery, but the surgeon explained that they were unnecessary. However, the plaintiff suffered a serious postoperative infection. He filed a lawsuit against the doctor and the hospital. The hospital argued that the doctor was an independent contractor, and not an employee or agent of the hospital.
Under Florida’s vicarious liability laws, an employer may be liable for the negligence of the employees committed within their employment scope. In cases involving hospitals and independent contractor physicians, a hospital may still be liable if the hospital “cloaked her with apparent authority to act on its behalf.” Apparent agency exists if the plaintiff can establish three elements.
The three elements of an apparent agency inquiry are: