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Law School Case Brief

Parker v. Vanderbilt Univ - 767 S.W.2d 412 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1988)


Under Tennessee law, a master is liable for his servant's negligence solely on the doctrine of respondent superior. To hold the master/principal liable, it must be established that the servant or agent shall have been on the superior's business, acting within the scope of his employment.


Patient instituted a medical malpractice action against the doctors and the employer, claiming that the brain damage he suffered while hospitalized resulted from the negligent misplacement of an endotracheal tube and failure to recognize and promptly correct the problem. After the trial judge dismissed the doctors, their hospital-employer, and the director of anesthesia services for the hospital where the accident occurred, plaintiffs filed a notice of voluntary dismissal as to the other defendants.


Are the defendants liable for negligence under the doctrine of respondeat superior?




The court held that the doctor who was the director of anesthesia services was not responsible for the acts of the nurse anesthetists who were not doing his business, but were the servants of the hospital. The employer, who furnished the doctors to the hospital under a contract, was also properly dismissed because the doctors were the loaned servants of the hospital and their negligence could not be imputed to the employer. There was no testimony that the doctors exercised control over the means and method of inserting the tube. The doctors were also not personally negligent because there was no evidence of the applicable standard of care in supervising the nurse anesthetists.

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