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Hospitals and their governing bodies may be held liable for injuries resulting from negligent supervision of members of their medical staffs. A hospital assumes certain responsibilities for the care of its patients and it must meet the standards of responsibility commensurate with this trust. If a medical staff is negligent in the exercise of its duty of supervising its members or in failing to recommend action by the hospital's governing body, then the hospital will be negligent.
Dr. Salinsky performed an unsuccessful surgical procedure on plaintiff James Johnson at Misericordia Community Hospital (“Misericordia”). About fifteen months thereafter, the plaintiff filed suit alleging that both Dr. Salinsky and Misericordia were negligent. According to plaintiff, Misericordia was negligent by being imprudent and careless in its selection of Dr. Salinsky as a member of its staff, and in allowing Dr. Salinsky to perform orthopedic surgery within its operative facilities when it knew, or should have known, that the doctor was not qualified to perform such diagnostic and operative procedures. Plaintiff further asserted that Misericordia was negligent in failing to investigate the abilities and qualities of Dr. Salinsky's capabilities in orthopedic care when said hospital knew, or should have known, that he did not possess such proper capability. At trial, undisputed expert testimony established that the surgical procedure utilized by Dr. Salinsky was not in accord with good orthopedic practice. Accordingly, the jury found that Dr. Salinsky was negligent with respect to the medical care and treatment he afforded the plaintiff and attributed twenty percent of the causal negligence to him and eighty percent to the hospital. The Court of Appeals affirmed the order apportioning 80 percent of the negligence to the hospital. Misericordia petitioned for review.
Under the circumstances, was it proper to apportion 80 percent of the negligence to the hospital?
The Court affirmed the order entered in favor of the patient. It held that the hospital had a duty to exercise due care when selecting its medical staff. The failure to investigate an applicant's qualifications for the staff privileges requested gave rise to a foreseeable risk of unreasonable harm. The patient only had to prove that the hospital did not make a reasonable effort to determine whether the doctor was qualified to perform orthopedic surgery. Under the doctrine of constructive knowledge, the hospital at a minimum was charged with having knowledge of that information which could readily have been obtained if only its personnel had contacted the hospitals referred to in the doctor's application.