A South Carolina appellate court has found that a hospital was not responsible to injured patients for choosing not to make sure that a physician had a valid medical malpractice insurance policy in place. Two former surgery patients sued the Laurens County Healthcare System alleging that the hospital was liable for deciding not to ensure that the plaintiffs’ treating surgeon, Dr. Byron Brown, maintain sufficient medical malpractice insurance coverage.
The plaintiffs obtained default judgments against Dr. Brown. They in turn asserted that such a duty was included in the hospital admissions contract, which included “services to be rendered” to the patient. The trial judge granted summary judgment in favor of the hospital.
In affirming the summary judgment order, the appeals panel stated that under the plain language of the admissions contract, it is not reasonable to conclude that the term “services to be rendered” refers to the act of monitoring a treating physician’s compliance with medical malpractice insurance requirements imposed by the hospital. The appellate court also rejected the plaintiffs’ contention that the hospital had negligently granted privileges to Dr. Brown.