Suing a Hospital for Negligence

Legal Helpline: ☎ 1800 529 835

Hospital errors often occur. A failure to take reasonable care by a doctor in a hospital may result in a negligence action against both the hospital and the doctor. A hospital can also be sued for negligent conduct by its nurses or other staff.

If you have suffered harm or loss as a result of a medical mistake in a hospital, you may wish seek legal advice on whether you can claim compensation. Our hospital negligence solicitors act on a No Win No Fee basis in claims against private and public hospitals. To find out whether you can sue a hospital for negligence, call our free helpline to speak with our legal team.

Vicarious Liability

A hospital may be held liable for its own negligent conduct, but also for the negligent conduct of others. The latter is called vicarious liability.

When determining whether the hospital will be liable for the actions of another person, it must be proven that:

  1. the person was an employee or agent of the hospital at the time of the alleged negligence and
  2. that the person's actions (that caused the harm) were carried out in the course of their employment.

If the patient injured by negligence is a public patient and vicarious liability applies, then it's generally best to sue the hospital only and not any other individual parties as having multiple defendants can result in unecessary delays.

Non-delegable duties

This duty arises when the hospital undertakes a responsibility for a vulnerable person. The hospital must ensure the safety and care of its patients, and their non-delegable duty of care cannot be delegated to an individual employee. This type of duty is often argued in cases where the negligence is due to systemic errors in a hospital, or where the negligence is caused by an independent contractor for whom the hospital will not be found vicariously liable.

Courts have generally held that where a private patient chooses the treating doctor, the hospital is generally not responsible for the negligence of that doctor. Though the hospital still owes a duty of care for its nursing staff.

Cases: Albrighton v Royal Prince Alfred Hospital [1980] 2 NSWLR 542; Ellis v Wallsend District Hospital (1989) 17 NSWLR 553; John James Memorial Hospital Ltd v Keys [1999] FCA 678.

Indemnity and Contribution

Even though a hospital can be held liable vicariously or through its non-delegable duty under the common law, there is legislation that allows the hospital to require their negligent employee or contractor to contribute to the compensation payout. In some States, the hospital may even seek that their employee indemnify them in circumstances where the hospital has been found vicariously liable for their actions.

For obligation-free assistance call our hospital negligence lawyers to find our about your rights in suing a hospital within Australia.

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