No Agency Liability for Acts of Nonparty Clinic’s Physician
The Illinois Supreme Court has reversed a ruling that exposed hospitals to liability for the acts of a nonparty health clinic employee. Parents of a newborn complained that a hospital and its foundation were guilty of medical malpractice based on the acts of a physician employee of a nonparty federally qualified health clinic. They charged that the doctor failed to diagnose prenatal complications while providing services to the mother at the clinic. In a split decision, the Court determined the hospital could not be held vicariously liable for alleged medical negligence for services provided by the clinic’s physician at the clinic not owned by the hospital. At the core of the debate was the holding out element of apparent agency. Where the Appellate Court found a holding out by Northwestern of its affiliation with the clinic, testing, delivery, tours, funding and technical assistance, the Supreme Court held the line that Northwestern did not own or operate the clinic. Moreover, the clinic relied primarily on federal funding and its employees were federal employees subject to liability only through the Federal Tort Claims Act.