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Vicarious Liability in a Medical Malpractice Case

When you bring a lawsuit against a doctor for medical malpractice in the state of New York, you always have to incorporate their medical group as well. This is because of vicarious liability, which in its most basic and simplistic form means, the employer is responsible for the acts of his or her employee.

This means if you have somebody working in your company, and they do something careless that results in causing harm to somebody else, then you, the employer or the company is the one who is going to be actually responsible for paying the damages to the person who has suffered injuries.

What is Vicarious Liability?

There is a book called Pattern Jury Instructions (PJI), which consists of instructions that a judge would typically read to the jury in a particular type of case. This book also talks about vicarious liability, and it is important to know what it says, because this is what the jury will hear from the judge. The PJI says:

"An employer is responsible for the act of his employee, if the act is in the furtherance of the employer's business, and is within the scope of the employee's authority".

The language used in PJI has many nuances and interpretations, but what the above statement in its most basic form really means is: Was the person causing harm doing so in the course of his or her employment? This means did the injury happen while he was doing the type of work that he was supposed to be doing. If the answer is yes, then it is an important fact for the jury to consider and understand. Furthermore, the PJI says:

"An act is within the scope of the employee's authority, if it is performed while the employee is engaged generally in the performance of his or her assigned duties, or if the act is reasonably necessary or incidental to the employment".

Hence, basically, the jury has to determine whether or not what happened was during the course of the actual employment. Was the person doing what he was supposed to be doing?

Who is Responsible?

Therefore, vicarious liability simply means that the employer is going to be responsible for the acts of the employee, if the employee was careless and cause harm to somebody else. Vicarious liability is a vital term because it gives you an insight about evaluating a case, and provides an understanding about the people you have to sue in a particular medical malpractice case in New York.

Just because an employee has caused you harm, it does not necessarily mean the employer can get away scot-free. The employer will be responsible for the actions of the employee, if the employee was doing his duties in the normal course of business. If the employee acted on his own behalf and was doing something that was in no way connected with the business of the company, then the employer will not be held responsible, even if the employee has caused harm to somebody due to his careless or negligent behavior.

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