Smith Haughey Appellate Team Prevails before the Court of Appeals In Medical malpractice Case; Hospital Client Avoids Expensive Trial

A Smith Haughey appellate team of shareholder Jason Sebolt and associate Jonathan Koch obtained a unanimous decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals affirming a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a hospital client on the grounds that the hospital was not vicariously liable for an independent contractor’s alleged medical malpractice under an ostensible agency theory.

Our client successfully argued at both the trial and appellate court levels that there was no evidence that the treating physician was the hospital’s ostensible agent.  Importantly, both courts relied heavily on: (1) evidence presented by the Smith Haughey team that the plaintiff had reviewed and signed a consent-to-treatment form acknowledging that there was no employment or agency relationship between the hospital and the doctor, and (2) plaintiff’s deposition testimony that undercut her claims that she believed her doctor was the hospital’s agent based on unspecified signage on the hospital’s campus.  As a result, the client avoided the unnecessary risk and expense of taking the case to trial.

In Michigan, medical-malpractice plaintiffs often raise ostensible agency arguments in an attempt to hold a hospital liable for the alleged negligence of independent contractors who have staff privileges but are not employees or agents of the hospital. SHRR’s success in this appeal demonstrates the importance of understanding the relevant legal architecture, proactively developing the facts necessary to establish a strong defense, and using those facts to craft convincing arguments before a court. In light of this reality, Smith Haughey litigation teams are constructed to achieve success no matter what pathway a case takes, including having appellate teams poised to step in whenever appeals are necessary.