Vicarious liability: “Let the master answer”

By Edward D. Shoulkin, JD, and Tamara J. Smith, JD

Hospitals, medical practice groups, and other healthcare entities often find themselves named as defendants alongside physicians in lawsuits alleging physician malpractice. In many cases, the plaintiff patient claims that the physician was an “agent, servant, or employee” of the hospital or practice group, and the healthcare entity, therefore, should be held vicariously liable for the physician’s acts or omissions.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, “vicarious liability” is “the imposition of liability on one person for the actionable conduct of another, based solely on the relationship between the two persons; indirect or imputed legal responsibility for the acts of another; for example, the liability of an employer for the acts of an employee, or, a principal for the torts or [actions] of an agent.”

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