Often when we see a news account of a lawsuit against a doctor alleging medical malpractice, one of its allegations includes hospital negligence. This may lead some to wonder what is hospital negligence.
Hospital negligence might be thought of as an overarching form of medical malpractice, but involves people in addition to the health care professional who allegedly caused the harm to the patient.
The legal theory that underlies hospital negligence is that an act of medical malpractice may not occur in a vacuum by itself; others may also be indirectly at fault for the claimed harm to the patient.
For example, if a doctor makes a surgical error, an investigation of the facts that go beyond the surgery mistake itself may reveal that the doctor had made the same mistake before, or had a history of substance abuse. That the hospital employed the doctor anyway may be construed as negligence in addition to the doctor error.
Sometimes, hospital negligence may not involve a health care professional. A hospital that hires a linen company that fails to provide sanitary sheets for hospital beds, and those sheets spread a fungal infection, may be negligent. Similarly, a hospital that admits a patient with a violent criminal record and places that person in the same room as another patient with no safeguards may be accused of negligence if the potentially dangerous person injures another patient.
In other words, any time that a hospital does something, or fails to do something, in the hiring, training, or supervision of an employee or contractor, that act or omission can lead the hospital to being named as an additional defendant in a lawsuit.
The question of whether and how to add additional defendants into a medical malpractice lawsuit depends on the facts of each case. This post cannot cover all the possibilities. An attorney familiar with medical malpractice laws should be able to help the injured patient to assess whether to add hospital negligence as another cause of action in a medical malpractice lawsuit.