Can Medical Professionals Be Sued Individually for Medical Malpractice?

Some nurses (CRNA’s) are trained and licensed to give anesthesia.  In a New Jersey case, a nurse anesthetist put the breathing tube in a patient’s esophagus instead of the trachea, causing the patient severe and permanent brain damage.  Since she was a hospital employee, the Plaintiff’s lawyer sued the hospital.  But, at that time under New Jersey law, a hospital could only be sued for $10,000 no matter how bad the medical malpractice, or how badly the patient was injured.  This is not enough to pay the costs of the lawsuit if you win, so experienced lawyers sue the hospital employees personally.  As a result, most hospital unions make the hospitals give their members personal malpractice insurance.

In the above case, the Plaintiff’s lawyer sued the hospital, the nurse anesthetist personally, and the physician anesthesiologist who had hired her.  He also included the surgeon, who was not even in the room, because in most states it is against the rules for a nurse anesthetist to put a patient to sleep without a doctor being in the room.  He should have been there when anesthesia was started.  The lawyer sued them all, jointly and severally, and their combined malpractice insurance policies had to contribute to make the full payment.


Two doctors in Oregon practiced in the same office.  They did not have a partnership or any formal association with each other.  But, both doctors practiced the same medical specialty; both of their names were on the door.  They used the same equipment and saw each other’s patients when one was unavailable.  A woman was injured by one of them, but before she could file a medical malpractice lawsuit, one doctor died, leaving no medical malpractice insurance.  So, she sued the other doctor, who had never treated her.  The court said that since the two doctors benefited from each other’s activities, they were actually running a joint venture, and the woman could sue the surviving doctor for what his colleague had done.


A word of caution.  It is very common for two doctors to treat a patient simultaneously, especially in hospitals.  The attending physician may seek the opinion of another doctor by asking for a consultation.  A doctor treating a patient for pneumonia may call in another specialist to bring the patient’s diabetes under control, and the two conditions will be treated separately and simultaneously.  A patient having a gallbladder removed may request the surgeon to arrange for a podiatrist to fix bunions at the same time.  These are not joint ventures, because each doctor is acting independently and billing for his services separately.


It can be difficult to determine who exactly was at fault in your client’s medical malpractice case.  JD.MD can help you.  Contact us today at 1-800-225-5363 for an initial case evaluation or a medical expert’s opinion.