Can Liability of a Hospital Be Premised on the Doctrine of Respondeat Superior or Agency by Estoppel or Its Negligent Conduct ?
Traditionally, liability on behalf of a hospital is premised on one of three theories.
First, hospital liability may be premised on the doctrine of respondeat superior.
"Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a hospital is liable for the negligent acts of its employees." Cox v. Ohio State Univ. Hosp. (1996), 117 Ohio App. 3d 254, 259, 690 N.E.2d 552, 555, citing Avellone v. St. John's Hosp. (1956), 165 Ohio St. 467, 60 Ohio Op. 121, 135 N.E.2d 410, and Klema v. St. Elizabeth's Hosp. of Youngstown (1960), 170 Ohio St. 519, 11 Ohio Op. 2d 326, 166 N.E.2d 765.
While a hospital may be held liable for the negligent acts of its employees, liability based upon the doctrine of respondeat superior is not alleged by plaintiffs herein, and, thus, invites no further discussion.
Taking one step beyond the doctrine of respondeat superior, a hospital may also be held liable for the negligent acts of an independent contractor, as opposed to the acts of its employee, through the doctrine of agency by estoppel.
"A hospital may be held liable under the doctrine of agency by estoppel for the negligence of independent medical practitioners practicing in the hospital if it holds itself out to the public as a provider of medical services and in the absence of notice or knowledge to the contrary, the patient looks to the hospital, as opposed to the individual practitioner, to provide competent medical care." Clark v. Southview Hosp. & Family Health Ctr. (1994), 68 Ohio St. 3d 435, 444-445, 628 N.E.2d 46, 53 (overruling paragraph four of the syllabus in Albain v. Flower Hosp. 1990, 50 Ohio St. 3d 251, 553 N.E.2d 1038).
In Clark v. Southview Hosp. & Family Health Ctr. (1994), the Ohio Supreme Court extended hospital liability for acts of independent medical practitioners based on the reasoning that a patient "had a right to assume and expect that the treatment was being rendered through hospital employees and that any negligence associated therewith would render the hospital liable." Id.
However, like the doctrine of respondeat superior, the plaintiffs sub judice have not alleged liability on behalf of LMH for acts of independent medical practitioners.
Thus, while the reasoning in Clark lends guidance for today's decision, the court need not consider the doctrine of agency by estoppel.
Finally, and in addition to the doctrines of respondeat superior and agency by estoppel, a hospital may be held independently liable for its negligent conduct.