Don’t Let Them Fool You – Health Systems can be Held Liable for Incidents at their Hospitals

Here’s an interesting legal tactic for you: In a negligence case brought against the system, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is apparently asserting that it doesn’t run hospitals, despite describing itself as an “integrated global health enterprise” in its own press releases. – Anne Ziegler, FierceHealthCare.com

Central to what might be the most interesting negligence trial in quite some time is the untimely death of Rose Lee Diggs. Ms. Diggs, an 89 year-old woman was being treated at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Without any hospital staff noticing, and without any proper means to prevent her from doing so, Ms. Diggs got out of her bed, wondered down the hall, up the stairs, and to the roof of the hospital, where she would later be found dead. The suit, which contends that hospital staff delayed in reporting Mrs. Diggs missing and tried to remove evidence from the scene, names both UPMC Health System, and UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as defendants.

However, in what might be one of the most interesting defense tactics I have seen yet, attorneys for the University of Pittsburgh Health System have asserted that even if there was a wrongdoing in the case of Mrs. Diggs, that the system would not be responsible. Its attorneys have taken the position that each hospital and healthcare facility within its system are independent, not-for-profit corporations which are solely liable for the negligence that occurs at their facility.

Although clever, this argument does not hold under law. In any lawsuit in which the hospital is held liable for malpractice and/or negligence, the Health System which funds, organizes, and operates that facility is also held liable. Of course, the final decision in this case regarding whether or not University of Pittsburgh Health System can be held liable will be up to the Judge hearing the case. Lets just hope she sides with the legal precedent, and common sense.

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