State Supreme Court Affirms Hospital’s Partial Summary Judgment When Doctor is Released

Christiana Care Health Services Inc. (CCHS) brought an interlocutory appeal of a trial court decision that denied its motion for partial summary judgment. The underlying lawsuit was for medical negligence, which occurred during surgery performed on Margaret Rackerby Flint at Christiana Care Hospital, which is operated by CCHS.

According to the lawsuit, the surgery caused the death of Flint two days following the surgery. The lawsuit was filed by Meeghan Carter, Flint’s daughter, individually and as administrator of the Flint estate.

In that lawsuit, the defendants named were Dr. Michael Principe, who did the surgery, Dr. Eric Johnson, who assisted Dr. Principe and CCHS.

The sole claim against CCHS is that the two doctors were its agents and it would be vicariously liable for the doctors’ alleged medical negligence.

Mediation resolved claims brought against Dr. Principe and his medical practice. As part of that settlement agreement, the Flint estate signed a release that released all claims. CCHS was not a party to the settlement or the release.

Following that settlement, CCHS filed its motion for partial summary judgment against the Flint estate on the theory that the release of Dr. Principe released it from any vicarious liability for Dr. Principe’s alleged negligence.

The superior court denied the motion. CCHS argued: (1) the release of an agent released the vicarious claim against the principal as a matter of law; and (2) the terms of the release that plaintiff (the administrator) signed when she settled with Dr. Principe and his medical practice also released the hospital from liability for Dr. Principe’s conduct.

The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with the CCHS’ second contention, finding that the written release operated as a complete satisfaction of plaintiff’s vicarious liability claim against CCHS arising from Dr. Principe’s alleged negligence, and the motion for partial summary judgment should have been granted.

Accordingly, the judgment of the superior court was reversed.

Christiana Care Health Services, Inc. v. Carter, et al., No. 58, 2019, Delaware Supreme Court (Dec. 2, 2019).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice lawsuits, wrongful death lawsuits, nursing home negligence lawsuits, and birth injury lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Schaumburg, St. Charles, Geneva, Wheaton, Hinsdale, Waukegan, Lake Zurich, Chicago Heights, South Holland, Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Highland Park, Glencoe, Northfield, Worth, Alsip, South Holland, Chicago (Wicker Park, West Rogers Park, East Garfield Park, Washington Park, Jackson Park, South Shore, Hegewisch, East Side, Uptown, Bronzeville, Chinatown, Greek Town, Little Italy), Schiller Park, Winthrop Harbor, Zion, Hoffman Estates and Libertyville, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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