Illinois Appellate Court Says No Apparent Agency To Hold Hospital Responsible For Surgeon’s Alleged Negligence

In its opinion dated August 10, 2021, the Appellate Court of Illinois First District Second Division (“Illinois Appellate Court”) held: “To defeat a claim of vicarious liability, all that was required of Silver Cross [Hospital and Medical Center] was evidence that Tracy [Delegatto] had either actual or constructive notice of Dr. Rinella’s status as an independent contractor … The consent forms provided to Tracy by Silver Cross that she signed, not once, but on three separate occasions and that clearly and unambiguously informed every signatory that “all physicians” were independent contractors were sufficient to put Tracy on notice of Dr. Rinella’s relationship to Silver Cross. Further, it has long been settled that absent fraud, the act of signing a document evidences the signer’s knowledge of its contents. Id. ¶ 54. Here, on each of the three identical consent forms, Tracy acknowledged by her signature that she was satisfied that she understood what she was signing. Clearly, Tracy had notice of Dr. Rinella’s status. On this record, there is not one scintilla of evidence that Dr. Rinella acted in any manner that would lead Tracy to reasonably conclude that he was either an agent or an employee of Silver Cross.”

The Consent Forms

The identical consent forms signed by Tracy on March 9, 2015, March 28, 2015, and March 30, 2015 stated under the paragraph heading  “HOSPITAL SERVICES,” all in upper case and bold text: “I UNDERSTAND THAT ALL PHYSICIANS, NURSE PRACTITIONERS AND PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTS FURNISHING SERVICES TO ME, INCLUDING EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT, RADIOLOGISTS, ANESTHESIOLOGISTS, PATHOLOGISTS, AND THE LIKE, ARE INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS AND ARE NOT EMPLOYEES OR AGENTS OF THE HOSPITAL. ________(initial)”

Also on March 30, 2015, Tracy signed a surgical consent form giving Dr. Rinella permission to perform the necessary surgical procedure. In pertinent part, the surgical consent form stated, “I understand all physicians furnishing services to me, including anesthesiologists, radiologist[s], pathologists, physician assistant[s], nurses anesthetists, and the like are independent contractors and are not employees or agents of the hospital.”

Dr. Rinella, assisted by PA Stevens, performed the surgery that day at Silver Cross. Tracy was discharged two days later on April 1. A week after the surgery, on April 6, 2015, Tracy died.

Apparent Agency

An Illinois medical malpractice plaintiff must plead and prove the following elements in order to hold a hospital liable: (1) the hospital, or its agent, acted in a manner that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the individual who was alleged to be negligent was an employee or agent of the hospital; (2) where the acts of the agent create the appearance of authority, the plaintiff must also prove that the hospital had knowledge of and acquiesced in them; and (3) the plaintiff acted in reliance upon the conduct of the hospital or its agent, consistent with ordinary care and prudence.

The Illinois Appellate Court stated in the case it was deciding, “Here, “all physicians” was sufficient to put Tracy on notice that Dr. Rinella was neither an employee nor an agent of Silver Cross. Under Gilbert, nothing more was required by Silver Cross … Tracy was presented with and signed the same consent form on three separate occasions, and on all three occasions, she indicated her satisfaction in understanding the consent and its significance. Additionally, the signature line was neither obscured nor hidden near unrelated text. Although the signature line appears at the end of the form, there was space provided just to the right of the employer-agency disclaimer on which Tracy initialed, signifying her review of the same.”

The Illinois Appellate Court further stated: “Having found that neither the holding out nor apparent authority elements have been met, we need not address the reliance element.”

Source Delegatto v. Advocate Health and Hospitals, 2021 IL App (1st) 200484.

If you or a loved one may have suffered serious injury (or worse) as a result of medical malpractice in Illinois or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find an Illinois medical malpractice attorney, or a medical malpractice attorney in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 8th, 2021 at 5:24 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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