Illinois Court Rules Consent Doesn’t Trump Actions in Agency Analysis
An Illinois couple sued a hospital and doctors for negligent treatment of their newborn who spent months in a neonatal intensive care (NICU). The parties locked horns over the status of the physicians who treated the baby as independent contractors versus agents of the hospital. While the plaintiffs’ contention that the physicians held leadership roles in the NICU and were responsible for developing and implementing protocol specifically related to the child’s treatment seemed compelling, the appellate court was persuaded by other factors. The doctors wore lab coats with the hospital logo and name tags identifying them as staff. They also had offices in the hospital near the intensive care unit. The parents did not arrange with the doctors for the baby's care, but rather relied on the hospital to furnish the needed medical services. The hospital advertising claims it focuses on neonatal and eye treatment, having top physicians, which implies the physicians are hospital employees. These factors overrode the standard hospital consent form stating some physicians were independent contractors.