State Supreme Court Reverses Judgment for Defendant in Wrongful Death Claim

The Supreme Court of Idaho recently released an opinion reversing a lower court’s dismissal of a wrongful death by medical malpractice claim. The district court had ruled that the plaintiffs’ claim against the hospital where a family member died from an anesthesiologist’s alleged negligence could not proceed, since the medical provider was an independent contractor rather than an employee of the hospital. The state supreme court disagreed with the district court’s findings, holding that the plaintiff adequately made a claim against the hospital based on the apparent authority they had over the medical provider, and the claim should not have been dismissed. Based on this most recent ruling, the plaintiffs’ case will be reheard by the district court and could proceed toward a possible trial or settlement.

Hospital Patient Undergoes Surgery but Never Wakes Up

The plaintiffs in the case of Navo v. Bingham Memorial Hospital are the surviving family members of a man who visited the defendant hospital in December 2008, suffering from an infection in his ankle that was caused in part by a metal rod that had been implanted to treat a previous injury. The patient agreed to undergo surgery to have the metal rod removed, and he completed an anesthesia release form. The plaintiffs’ claim alleges that the provider of the anesthesia negligently administered the drugs, and nurses were unable to revive the patient after the procedure was complete. Ten days later, the patient died.

Plaintiffs’ Wrongful Death Lawsuit against Hospital Is Rejected, and Plaintiffs Appeal

After the patient’s death, his surviving family members filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the provider of the anesthesia, as well as the hospital where the procedure took place. Based on the consent and release forms signed by the patient and the status of the anesthesiologist as an “independent contractor” of the hospital rather than a direct employee, the district court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim against the hospital, finding that it could not be held legally responsible for the man’s death.

The plaintiffs appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, arguing that the actual independent contractor status of the relationship between the medical provider and the hospital was not dispositive, since the hospital held apparent authority over the anesthesiologist, and the plaintiff reasonably assumed that the medical provider was an agent of the hospital. The high court agreed with the plaintiffs and reversed the prior decision, ruling that the correspondences and advertisements released by the hospital made it appear to consumers and potential patients that the anesthesia was being provided by an agent of the hospital, and the hospital could therefore be held responsible for the doctor’s negligence.

Florida Agency Liability in Wrongful Death Cases

Plaintiffs in Florida personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice cases are often permitted to sue several defendants after suffering injuries as a result of the negligence of one or more parties. Generally, an employer can be sued for the negligent acts of an employee if the employee was acting within the scope of their employment when the negligent act occurred. In response to this vicarious liability, many employers have started using independent contractors in an attempt to avoid liability for the negligence of their employees. Accident victims should not automatically think that an independent contractor relationship will prevent them from recovering compensation from an employer, since legal doctrines like apparent authority may allow plaintiffs to recover in such cases. South Florida wrongful death victims should consult with a qualified Miami wrongful death attorney to assess their options before deciding on a course of action.

Are You a Victim of Negligence?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by the negligent act of another party, quickly contacting a skilled attorney to review your case can preserve your opportunity for full recovery. The experienced Miami accident lawyers at Friedman, Rodman & Frank know how to advocate on behalf of our clients for the compensation that they deserve. With our aggressive representation, you can be confident that your case is being handled properly. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we represent clients in Miami and throughout South Florida in personal injury and wrongful death cases, including medical malpractice and wrongful death claims. If you have been injured, contact us toll-free at 877-448-8585 or via our online contact form. Se habla Español / Nou Parlé Creole.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Reverses $4.5 Million Award in Auto Accident Case, April 14, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Judgment in Favor of County Fair Association Affirmed after Plaintiff Injured During Free Fireworks Display, April 21, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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