Can You Sue Your Hospital? Yes

Can You Sue Your Hospital? Yes

Two months ago, few in our part of the country had heard of Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, and now odds are most everyone recognizes that name. After all, Texas Presbyterian is where Thomas Eric Duncan was hospitalized for Ebola last month, and it is in one of their hospital rooms that Mr. Duncan passed away earlier this month.

Texas Presbyterian Hospital (full name being Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas) is also the hospital where two of its nurses have now been diagnosed with Ebola, though neither one of these two victims is being treated there.

Nurse Nina Pham is being cared for in Baltimore, Maryland; nurse Amber Joy Vinson is being treated in Atlanta, Georgia.   No other cases of Ebola have been reported, and Mr. Duncan’s family members have been released from quarantine after 21 days of isolation without any signs of infection.

There is a growing focus on this Texas hospital and what happened there to cause two of its staff to come down with the terrifying virus as a result of treating Mr. Duncan. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is reported to have stated that there was a contamination at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas which was a “breach of protocol” under CDC guidelines.


Hospitals Get Sued for Malpractice, Just Like Doctors

It’s not clear what the future will hold for Texas Presbyterian Hospital. Will it be the defendant in a lawsuit? Time will tell.

However, one thing that may be confusing to some folk is that a hospital can be sued for malpractice just the same as an individual doctor can be sued for making a medical mistake. Hospitals are “legal entities” just like people under both Indiana and Illinois law, for example. They can be named as defendants in lawsuits.

When someone is hurt by an error or mistake while they are being treated in an Indiana or Illinois hospital, they may well have a legal claim for damages against that facility. Unless the facts show that the reason that they were harmed was someone’s intentional evildoing, then that lawsuit will most likely be based upon state negligence law, or medical malpractice.

When a hospital is sued, a human being will act as the hospital’s duly authorized representative in much the same way that a corporation will have one of its officers or directors sitting at the defense table at trial as the representative of that company. Similarly, if settlement negotiations take place between a patient who is suing a hospital, then there will be a person authorized to represent the hospital at the negotiation table who will have the authority to agree on a settlement amount.

Hospitals Are Responsible for Mistakes Made by Hospital Employees

When an employee of a hospital is negligent — they make a mistake or error that harms a patient — then the hospital can be held responsible for that employee’s negligence. Nurses, technicians, assistants, aides, paramedics, EMTs, and others who are paid on the hospital payroll are among those individuals whose medical negligence can form the basis of a negligence lawsuit against a hospital.

Whether or not the malpractice of a doctor or physician will be the basis of a lawsuit against the hospital isn’t as clear under our laws. It will depend upon the relationship between the hospital and the doctor: if they are shown to have an employer-employee relationship — as opposed to an independent contractor arrangement — then the hospital may be sued for the doctor’s medical errors.


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