South Carolina hospital escapes suit over physician's lack of adequate insurance

An appeals court on Jan. 8 affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking unpaid medical malpractice awards from a South Carolina hospital, according to Bloomberg Law.

Two patients who suffered complications after surgeries performed by Byron Brown, MD, sued the physician for medical malpractice in 2014. The patients were awarded $3.1 million, but the awards went unpaid because Dr. Brown, an OBGYN, did not have adequate medical malpractice insurance.

The patients then filed a lawsuit seeking to collect from Laurens County (S.C.) Health Care System and its successor, Greenville Health System, because Dr. Brown had medical staff privileges at the hospital. The patients argued that the hospital breached the admission contract when it failed to ensure Dr. Brown maintained medical malpractice insurance to cover their claims.

The trial court granted the hospital's motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the court affirmed the decision.    

The appeals court held that the hospital had no contractual or tort duty to ensure Dr. Brown had adequate medical malpractice insurance. The court held that no language in the admission contract required Dr. Brown to have malpractice insurance to cover their claims. The court also refused to recognize the theory of hospital corporate negligence, a doctrine that imposes a duty of care on hospitals based on their responsibility for patient safety and wellbeing.

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