Thursday, April 7, 2016

Vicarious Liability Claim Based on Negligence of Unnamed Hospital Agents Allowed

In the case of Walker v. Scranton Hospital Company, LLC, No. 2015-Civil-5103 (C.P. Lacka. Co. March 16, 2016 Nealon, J.), the court addressed Preliminary Objections in a wrongful death medical malpractice action alleging a failure to timely diagnose and properly treat a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.  

The Defendant-hospital filed Preliminary Objections seeking to strike the Plaintiff’s vicarious liability claim premised upon the negligence of unnamed agents, challenging certain allegations in the Complaint on the grounds of lack of sufficient specificity, and with respect to a demurrer to the Plaintiff’s corporate liability claim.  

In his Opinion, Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas denied the hospital’s Motion to Strike the vicarious liability claim based upon the negligence of unidentified agents after noting that the Pennsylvania Superior Court recently concluded an another matter that a principal may be vicarious liable for the negligence of agents who are unnamed within a Complaint or referred to as a unit.   The rationale behind this ruling is that the identities of the hospital’s agents who were involved with the decedent’s care should be reflected in the hospital’s own records and should, therefore, be known to the hospital.  

Judge Nealon also ruled that two (2) negligence allegations for “failing to use due care under the circumstances” and “failing to employ appropriate methods of quality assurance” were stricken for lack of sufficient specificity.   The court otherwise denied the hospital’s Preliminary Objections with respect to other allegations in the Complaint.  

Judge Nealon also ruled that, given that the Plaintiff stated a cognizable cause of action for the hospital’s alleged breach of its corporate duties to hire component physicians and implement adequate policies and procedures, the demurrer filed by the hospital Defendant as to the Plaintiff’s corporate liability claim was overruled.  

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision by Judge Nealon in the case of Walker v. Scranton Hospital Company may contact me at

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