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Can Nurses Be Held Individually Liable For Patient Injuries?


A recent State Supreme Court decision in North Carolina allows nurses to be individually sued for medical negligence. Prior to this ruling, nurses who were working under the care of a doctor were not liable for injuries, only the doctor or hospital was. After this ruling, individual nurses can be held liable.

This is opening quite a can of worms. Will medical malpractice insurers have to provide policies to nurses? Will this drive up the costs of nursing? Will more individuals avoid nursing now that they can be held individually liable?

What we know is that the health care industry, much like the trucking industry, would prefer that individuals be thrown under the bus than corporations, like hospitals. Often, when a nurse commits medical malpractice, the hospital is sued and pays the fine. Similarly, when a trucker causes injury or death, it’s their employer that foots the bill. One way to shed light on the individual liability of these professionals is charge them with crimes after the fact. This protects their employer’s reputation and may reduce the company’s liability at trial. Now that they can be held individually liable for medical negligence, that can reduce the burden on their employers to pay injury claims.

Are the hospitals battling against their employees? 

Some hospital systems are lobbying local prosecutors to file charges against nurses who commit medical errors. The biggest case involves a Vanderbilt nurse who prescribed the wrong medication to an elderly patient. The patient died. She was charged with manslaughter despite the fact that the hospital she worked for lied to cover up the matter. She was convicted. This has resulted in a work refusal by colleagues against her former employer. So absolutely there is a war between health care providers and their employees. And it’s resulting in people being locked away for years so that hospitals can avoid liability.

Essentially, what happened was that the hospital’s pill dispenser gave the nurse the wrong pill. At her trial, the nurse was not allowed to bring in any evidence against her employer. She was ultimately convicted of a lesser sentence of criminally negligent homicide.

Another lawsuit involves a nurse who attempted to render aid to an inmate. The inmate was belligerent and subdued by officers who knelt on his back, hogtied and left him in a prone position. Though she was the only one who attempted to save his life, she was charged with his death.

At any rate, the situation is not sustainable. Hospitals need nurses and are currently understaffed. Throwing nurses under the bus to protect their bottom line won’t encourage future nurses to go into debt to learn how to nurse. Hospital systems cannot protect themselves from medical malpractice by laying the blame with their employees.

Talk to a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer Today

 Payer Law represents the interests of injured plaintiffs in Miami personal injury lawsuits. Call our Miami personal injury lawyers today and we can begin preparing your case immediately.


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