Finally, a doctor who has been negligent may not be the only defendant in a subsequent lawsuit. A hospital that has retained the doctor on its staff may be vicariously liable for the doctor’s negligence under a theory of “respondeat superior” (“let the master answer”) that often holds an employer liable for the negligence of its employees. More often, the doctor has “staff privileges” at the hospital, and the hospital will attempt to prove the limited role it plays in directing or supervising the doctor’s work. Importantly, many doctors belong to private medical practices, such as limited partnerships or limited liability companies, that also may be vicariously liable for the negligence of their member doctors.
However, a doctor is generally liable for any negligence on the part of his assistants and staff in carrying out his orders or caring for his patients. Likewise, an attending physician is generally liable for any negligence on the part of interns and medical students under the physician’s guidance.