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Hospital that refers patient to a doctor is not responsible for his negligence

In Waller v. Garver, et al., a panel of the Court of Appeals deemed itself bound by a recent precedent and ruled that the St. John Hospital & Medical Center should not be responsible for the alleged negligence of a doctor who performed knee surgery on Waller.    The Court noted that VanStelle v. Macaskill, a recent case, had apparently raised the threshold for when a physician is the apparent agent of a hospital.

The judges noted that under the old standard established in Grewe v. Mt. Clemens, the court needed only determine whether the patient "looked to the hospital to provide him treatment."  If the patient did, the hospital was responsible for a doctor's negligence, even if the doctor was not an employee of the hospital.  Pursuant to the newer, VanStelle standard, however, a patient who chose his doctor after the doctor was actually identified as a "hospital doctor" cannot argue that the doctor was an apparent agent of the hospital.  Applying that standard, the Court in this case determined that the trial judge erred in his analysis, and that the defendant hospital should be dismissed from the case because the patient could not identify any representation of agency made by the hospital.  It relied in part on a consent form that suggested that doctors, and not hospital employees, might direct the patient's care, and that "some of them" were independent contractors.

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