Medical Malpractice Law: Apparent Agency Not A Viable Ground In Tort Cases

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Some courts have declined to follow L&V, concluding that Fireman's Fund Indemnity Co. v. Longshore Beach & Country Club Inc., 127 Conn. 493, 496-97 (1941), recognized the viability of apparent authority claims in the tort context. However, Fireman's Fund never actually reached the issue of whether apparent authority is appropriate in tort cases, because it concluded that there was no basis for apparent authority on the facts of the case.

Accordingly, according to the court, L&V correctly held that "Connecticut . . . has yet to apply the doctrine of apparent authority to allow for a principal to be held liable to a third person who was harmed by the tortious conduct of a person held out as the principal's agent." (136 Conn. App. at 669.) Indeed, no appellate court has ever used the doctrine that way.

Conclusion

Considering that the vast majority of vicarious liability claims are resolved at the trial court level through dispositive motions, the effect of L&V cannot be underestimated. Since the decision, a number of cases involving agency claims have been successfully dismissed on motions to strike or for summary judgment.

In addition, the limitation on vicarious liability recognized under L&V is a positive step towards reducing the overall liability/risk faced by hospitals and other health care providers who contract with medical professionals and groups to provide specialized services and quality care for their patients. The decision provides an equitable balance in risk-sharing in the medical malpractice context because it does not completely insulate health care providers from liability in cases where actual agency exists, but it also ensures protection from liability for the actions for virtually every health care provider who enters the premises. •

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