Agency: Hospital–Residency Agreement Determines Right to Control Resident’s Conduct, Court Rules

November 2, 2016 | Strategic Insights for Health System


A Connecticut court of appeals concluded that although a defendant hospital exercised some level of control over some of a surgical resident's activities, the plaintiffs failed to produce sufficient factual evidence at trial that the hospital had a right to control the resident's performance of surgery. Thus reliable evidence was lacking, the court said, to support the jury's finding that the surgical resident was an agent of the hospital. In so ruling, the court reversed the trial court's judgment against the defendant hospital but affirmed the judgment in all other respects.

In a malpractice suit against the hospital, surgeon, and resident physician, the jury found that the defendant, a fourth-year medical resident, negligently inserted an optical trocar into the patient's abdomen during hernia surgery, causing a perforated colon and subsequent sepsis. An agency relationship existed between the resident and the hospital, the jury concluded, thus rendering the hospital liable for damages caused by the resident's negligence. In the aftermath of the surgical trauma, the patient required emergency surgery to repair the perforation and additional surgery to remove part of her large intestine. She also experienced sepsis resulting in multiple organ failure. She claimed economic damages for resulting permanent injury and disability. The jury awarded the patient more than $900,000 in economic damages and $9.6 million in noneconomic damages and awarded her husband $1.5 million for loss of consortium. The resident and hospital were found liable for 80% of the plaintiffs' damages;...

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