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In this medical negligence case, we review a jury verdict against a hospital based on the hospital’s failure to enforce its policies and procedures in patient care. Tennessee law has long recognized that a hospital has a duty to its patients to exercise that degree of care, skill, and diligence used by hospitals generally in its community. After reviewing the record, we hold that material evidence supports the jury’s determination that the hospital was 100% at fault for the patient’s death. We therefore reverse the Court of Appeals and reinstate the verdict of the jury.
This appeal involves a vicarious liability claim against a hospital based on the conduct of an emergency room physician. A patient and her husband filed a medical malpractice suit in the Circuit Court for Shelby County against a hospital and two physicians, one of whom had treated the patient in the hospital’s emergency room. Among other things, the complaint broadly alleged that the hospital was vicariously liable for the conduct of its agents. After the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims against both physicians for the second time, the hospital sought the dismissal of the vicarious liability claims on the ground that the plaintiffs’ claims against its apparent agent, the emergency room physician, were barred by operation of law. The trial court granted the hospital’s motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the vicarious liability claims against the hospital. Abshure v. Upshaw, No. W2008-01486-COA-R3-CV, 2009 WL 690804, at *5 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 17, 2009). We granted the Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application filed by the patient and her husband to determine whether their vicarious liability claims against the hospital should be dismissed under the facts of this case. We have determined that the lower courts erred by dismissing the vicarious liability claims against the hospital.
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Practice tip: when applicable, plead respondeat superior in a medical malpractice claim in a timely manner.
Kevin L. Holt, injured in an automobile accident in Arkansas, was first taken by ambulance to an Arkansas hospital and then transported to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, where he incurred $33,823.02 in expenses. Shelby County Health Care Corporation, the operator of the Regional Medical Center, filed affidavits for a lien as prescribed by statute. Thereafter, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, which had medical coverage for Holt with limits of $5,000, paid $1,290 for ambulance services and $3,710 to the Arkansas hospital. Shelby County Health Care Corporation sued Nationwide for impairment of its lien, seeking as recovery the entire amount due for its medical services to Holt. The trial court awarded $5,000 in damages. The Court of Appeals revised the amount of the judgment to $33,823.02. Because we have determined that liens under the Hospital Lien Act do not attach to medical payment benefits paid pursuant to an insurance policy, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the cause is dismissed.