Legal Pearl

Can a Hospital Be Responsible for Patient Care by an Outsourced Physician?

Ann W. Latner, JD



    Ann W. Latner, JD

    In Florida, a patient went into cardiac arrest in her home and was transported by ambulance to a local medical center where she was in a coma. After some hours in the emergency department (ED), the treating physician arranged for a transfer to another hospital with a Level II trauma center because it was better equipped to provide appropriate care. Once the patient arrived at the second hospital, still in a coma, the treating physician in the hospital’s ED decided against inducing therapeutic hypothermia. The patient was left with permanent brain damage and complete disability. Her family sued the second hospital, alleging negligence and harm caused by the ED physician’s decision not to induce hypothermia.

    A Florida Court of Appeals was asked to dismiss a case against a hospital because the hospital’s ED was operated by an independent contractor physician group, and the doctor who treated the patient was employed by the independent contractor. Thus, the hospital claimed it was not responsible for the harm to a patient.


    Is the hospital at fault?

    (Answer and discussion on the next page)