It is now possible for hospitals to be held in vicarious liability when independent contractor physicians perform negligent acts while they have the “apparent authority” of the hospital. In the context of determining if a principal should be held liable for an agent’s acts, apparent authority refers to the authority knowingly bestowed upon or permitted by the principal. In simpler terms, apparent authority is when a hospital becomes liable for a physician’s actions, whether they are acts of commission or acts of omission.
Determining Apparent Agency
According to the theory of apparent agency, agency that is apparent comes to be when there are three elements present. First, the purported principal must have representation. Second, there must be a third party present that relies on that presentation. Third, there needs to be a change in position from the third party that relies on the representation.
The jury in a court of law is often what determines whether a physician did or did not have a hospital’s apparent authority, which usually depends on the evidence that is presented in the court rather than on summative judgments from the courts themselves. As a result, the question of whether or not a hospital is liable for a treating physician’s negligent acts falls under vicarious liability theory, which makes it not a duty question but an apparent authority question.
Determining Vicarious Liability
In order for hospital liability via the theory of vicarious liability to be proven, apparent agency must first be proven, and is dependent on three locations and an extension. The first is the location of the offices of the physician. The second location is that of the hospital where the physician targeted by the suit performed his or her duties. The third is the hospital where the services sought by the patient were performed, and the fourth is the degree or extent to which a specialist was not sought by the patient on his or her own.
Florida Legal Restrictions
Within the state of Florida, suits brought against physicians who are employed by the state may not exceed $100,000 per patient and twice that amount per occurrence of negligence. In addition, neither any of the subdivisions of the state of Florida nor the state itself may be held liable for damages of a punitive nature. As a result, litigants who are interested in filing an action of medical malpractice must seek petitions within the state legislature for claim bills. In such bills, the parties must request a bill from the government that grants a greater amount of financial compensation than that present within the damage cap.
There are certain hospitals and physicians that supply their patients with forms that state arbitration will be required for any claims of medical malpractice. However, within the state of Florida, such alternative dispute forums are not mandated by law. If parties present do not accept the offer of a defendant to make use of arbitration, the maximum amount that can be recovered under state law will not be able to exceed that in economic damages. Specifically, no more than 80 percent of lost wages can be recovered, and in non economic damages, the limit is $350,000.
Whenever a person wants to file a suit against a hospital or a physician under the premise of medical negligence, there must be expert testimony present. Specifically, there must be a written medical expert opinion that supports there are merit to the patient’s claims of negligence in the actions or inactions of each defendant named in the suit. Defendants who believe that reasonable grounds do not exist within the claim must supply their own written medical expert opinions supporting their positions as well.