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New Mexico Supreme Court Reverses the Court of Appeals and Allows Plaintiff’s Vicarious-Liability Claim to Proceed to Trial

Posted in Firm News

In a decision released in September, the New Mexico Supreme Court reversed a state Court of Appeals decision affirming the dismissal of a plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim against a hospital resulting from the death of a patient. The plaintiff’s lawsuit, filed on behalf of the deceased patient, claims that a radiologist employed by the defendant hospital failed to communicate the results of a radiology report to the patient’s doctor, preventing the patient from being diagnosed with the colon cancer that later took his life.

This appeal focuses on the plaintiff’s claim against the hospital where he was treated. The radiologist who allegedly failed to send the report to the man’s doctor was a contract employee of the defendant hospital, but he wasn’t directly employed by them. The district court made the decision, which was affirmed by the court of appeals, that the plaintiff failed to properly allege that the hospital was vicariously liable for the negligence of the radiologist.

The court ruled that the plaintiff’s complaint failed to put the hospital on notice that it was being sued for the mistakes made by the radiologist, and it was therefore dismissed.

The Supreme Court of New Mexico analyzed the requirements for pleading vicarious liability under New Mexico law, and it found that the lower courts had erred in allowing the claim against the hospital to be dismissed. Whether the plaintiff’s complaint used the phrase “vicarious liability” or not, the court reasoned that the very nature of medical care dictates that a hospital providing health services should be responsible for the actions of professionals providing such care.

The Court found the plaintiff’s allegation in the complaint that his cancer was not diagnosed or treated, “as a consequence of the apparent failure by [the hospital] through an administrative inadequacy,” gave the hospital adequate notice of the plaintiff’s claim, and it remanded the case back to the district court for a trial.

What this Holding Means
As a result of this ruling, this plaintiff will have his day in court and could be compensated for the harm that was caused by the alleged mistakes made by the radiologist and the hospital.

Unfortunately, not all deserving plaintiffs have the capability to appeal a district court decision to the New Mexico Court of Appeals and then appeal that decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court in order to have their claims fairly addressed by a court. The simple truth is that in New Mexico negligence cases, the district courts can make legal mistakes, and plaintiffs who deserve a trial often get their cases dismissed and can’t afford an appeal.

Do You Need an Experienced Attorney?

If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of medical negligence or malpractice, the New Mexico personal injury attorneys at The Fine Law Firm want to help you handle your case. We will do all we can to get your claims properly prepared from the start, so that the state court will allow your case to proceed to trial if necessary. At the Fine Law Firm, we handle all types of injury and negligence cases, including medical malpractice claims. Schedule a free consultation today by calling (585) 889-3463, or contact us through our website and get started toward receiving the compensation that you deserve.

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