The Georgia Court of Appeals recently issued a summary judgment in favor
of Emory Adventist Hospital, in a lawsuit alleging that one of the hospital’s
emergency room physicians was medically negligent for failing to properly
treat the plaintiff’s husband for a heart condition, leading to
At issue was whether the defendant hospital was vicariously liable for
the physician’s conduct when the physician was hired as an independent
contractor and whether the physician’s actual employer could be
named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
In Georgia, hospitals must provide notice when independent contractors
are rendering care in order to avoid liability for their medical negligence.
Employers are vicariously liable for the negligent actions of their employees
conducted within the scope of their employment. Generally, this liability
does not extend to independent contractors. However, under Georgia law
hospitals that hire physicians to work as independent contractors must
provide notice of this relationship to patients. Specifically, the law
requires that the hospital provide notice through signage posted in a
“public area.” If a hospital fails to provide adequate notice,
they may be liable for the negligent conduct of their independent contractors
through the theory of apparent agency.
In this case, the plaintiff was unable to establish that the defendant
hospital failed to provide adequate notice.
In this case, the plaintiff argued that the defendant hospital was liable
for the physician’s negligent conduct even though she was an independent
contractor because the hospital’s notice regarding its independent
contractor relationship with some of the physician’s rendering services
there was not placed in a public area. According to the hospital’s
construction supervisor, at the time that the plaintiff’s husband
was being treated at the hospital, a sign stating that some or all of
the medical professionals rendering services at the hospital were independent
contractors who are liable for their own actions was posted in a hallway
outside the trauma room of the emergency department. The plaintiff’s
attorney provided an affidavit stating that he went to the hospital and
observed that the sign was not posted in a public area. However, the trial
court ruled that the attorney did not provide a sufficient explanation
for why he reached this conclusion.
The plaintiff also failed to file a claim against the physician’s
actual employer in a timely manner.
During the discovery, which is a pre-trial phase of a lawsuit where parties
can request information that leads to evidence supporting their position,
the physician furnished the name of his actual employer, Cobb Medical.
Three years later, the plaintiff filed court documents requesting that
Cobb Medical be named as a defendant in the lawsuit. In denying this request,
the trial court held that the plaintiff failed to provide Cobb Medical
notice of the medical negligence claims prior during the statute of limitations.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s rules on both issues,
thereby dismissing the case against Emory Adventist Hospital.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of medical negligence, it is
important that you speak to an attorney immediately in order to determine
who is liable for your injuries and to file a claim against those parties
in a timely manner.