Vicarious Liability for Death by Drug-Addicted Surgeon

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It’s unbelievable to us that a hospital continues evading vicarious liability for having employed a drug-addicted surgeon whose negligent care resulted in a patient’s severe injuries and, ultimately, his untimely painful death. The widow filed her lawsuit against the hospital for vicarious liability of the alleged wrongful death of her late husband who was treated by its surgeon – who later admitted his addiction to drugs and alcohol and who allegedly was already known to be a drug addict by the defendant hospital he was employed with.

The Court dismissed the facility’s objection to “vicarious liability” claims in the wrongful death suit and, as a result, the defendant hospital may be held vicariously liable for the alleged wrongful death of a patient who was treated by a drug-addicted surgeon at the facility. The hospital’s lawyers raised preliminary objections to the wrongful death complaint filed by the wife of deceased patient, Douglas MacLeod, who underwent a laparoscopic cholecystectomy at the hospital in December 2006. The surgeon, David P. Russo, MD, a defendant in the case (as well as assisting surgeon Mukesh J. Mehta, MD, also a defendant) allegedly left for vacation immediately after performing the procedure “without securing surgical coverage in his place,” according to court documents. Mr. MacLeod suffered complications the next day, which the widow plaintiff claims resulted from Dr. Russo “failing to properly identify and clip [her husband’s] cystic artery during surgery.” Mr. MacLeod was treated for cystic artery bleeding and had numerous hospitalizations until he died in March 2008.

According to court records, Dr. Russo later admitted that he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. In August 2009, Mr. MacLeod’s wife sued the surgeon, Dr. Mehta and the hospital, which allegedly knew of Dr. Russo’s addictions, for medical negligence.  The complaint against the hospital defendant alleges that the facility “knew of and permitted the addictions which gave rise to the claim of punitive damages against” Dr. Russo, and that the entities could therefore be held vicariously liable. The hospital facility’s defense lawyers filed a preliminary objection to this claim, which was dismissed in May by the Court: “Accepting all facts as true, Count IV of the amended complaint does allege that moving defendants knew of and permitted defendant Russo’s conduct,” wrote the court.  However, the court upheld the defendants’ objection to a separate claim of corporate negligence, which alleges liability “based on a hospital’s own policies, actions or inactions.” The court determined that the plaintiff failed “to plead facts demonstrating conduct of the hospital directly that is willful, wanton or recklessly indifferent to the rights of others.” A spokesperson for the hospital declined to comment, saying it was the facility’s policy not to discuss open litigation.

At Gray and White Law, we have experienced and respected attorneys who will take the time to learn about your case, investigate your claims, and respond to your questions or concerns.  If you suspect that you or someone you love suffered injuries that resulted from hospital negligence, medical malpractice, failure to diagnose, medication errors or negligent medical care provided by a hospital, doctor, surgeon, specialist or nurse, then you should contact us immediately for your FREE LEGAL CONSULTATION.  Please feel free to send us a confidential e-mail or to call us toll-free at 1-888-450-4456.