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Law School Case Brief

Johnson v. Misericordia Cmty. Hosp. - 97 Wis. 2d 521, 294 N.W.2d 501 (Ct. App. 1980)


The concept of holding a hospital liable for its own negligence has been termed "corporate negligence." In this context, it has been defined as the failure of a hospital, entrusted with the task of providing the accommodations necessary to carry out its purpose, to follow the established standard of conduct to which it should conform. Corporate negligence differs from the doctrine of respondeat superior because it imposes on the hospital a nondelegable duty owed directly to the patient, disregarding the details of the doctor-hospital relationship. 


Plaintiff patient Johnson underwent surgery at defendant Misericordia Hospital in Milwaukee for removal of a pin fragment from his right hip. The surgery was performed by Dr. Lester V. Salinsky, who was not an employee of defendant hospital but had been granted specialized surgical privileges. During the course of the operative procedure, the patient's right femoral artery and nerve were severed. The damage led to permanent paralysis of patient's right thigh muscles, with resultant atrophy, weakness and loss of function. After suing defendants for negligence, the patient settled with the physician. A jury found that defendant hospital was negligent for the granting of orthopedic privileges to the physician and apportioned 80 percent of the causal negligence to defendant hospital. The case was appealed.


In an action by an injured patient against defendant hospital that had granted specialized surgical privileges to the physician, was the jury's finding of corporate negligence proper?




On appeal, the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin affirmed the jury's finding of corporate negligence on the part of defendant hospital and its award of damages to the patient since defendants failed to exercise ordinary care in scrutinizing the physician's credentials before granting his application for permission to use hospital facilities. Defendant hospital had a duty to exercise reasonable care in the selection of its medical staff and in granting specialized surgical privileges. Defendant hospital failed to exercise ordinary care in failing to scrutinize the physician's credentials before his application for permission to use hospital facilities was approved.

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