Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Knighten v. United States

December 16, 2008

MARTRINA KNIGHTEN, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND OF DAMYA FORT, A MINOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, MAJKEN HANSON, AND WEST SUBURBAN MEDICAL CENTER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On July 29, 2004, Plaintiff Martrina Knighten gave birth to a daughter, Da'mya Fort, at Defendant West Suburban Medical Center (hereinafter "Defendant," "West Suburban," or "the hospital"). Fort was later diagnosed with Erb's palsy, which Plaintiff alleges was caused by the negligence of West Suburban and that of her doctors, Defendants Dr. Nathalie McCammon and Dr. Brenda Parks-Johnson (collectively, "the doctors"). Counts I and IV of Plaintiff's Complaint at Law ("Complaint") allege that the hospital is vicariously liable for the torts committed by the doctors. West Suburban moved for summary judgment on these two counts, arguing that it is not liable because no agency relationship existed between itself and the doctors. For the reasons stated below, the court agrees with West Suburban that neither Dr. Parks-Johnson nor Dr. McCammon were the hospital's actual agents. Because genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether a jury could conclude that the two doctors acted with apparent authority, however, the motion is denied.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In December 2003 or January 2004, Knighten began receiving prenatal care from Dr. Parks-Johnson at PCC Community Wellness Center ("PCC"), a health care clinic close to Knighten's home. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 12, 13.) Dr. Parks-Johnson also occasionally saw Plaintiff at West Suburban, where Plaintiff received ultrasounds and prenatal stress tests. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 2, 5.) According to Plaintiff, at least once during these tests at West Suburban she saw other medical personnel as well, including a male doctor who explained the results of one of her ultrasounds. (Knighten Dep. 47:13-16, Ex. 3 to Pl.'s 56.1.) During one of Plaintiff's visits with Parks-Johnson, Plaintiff asked where Parks-Johnson would deliver the baby, and Parks-Johnson informed her that the delivery would take place at West Suburban. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 17.) Plaintiff was considered to have a high-risk pregnancy because she had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and elevated blood pressure. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 3.)

Plaintiff claims that she went to West Suburban for an examination on July 28, 2004, but was not seen by a physician at that time. (Id. ¶ 4.) Later that evening, Plaintiff's water broke, and she returned to the emergency room at West Suburban. (Id. ¶ 6.) Parks-Johnson was present throughout the day on July 29, and was the only doctor monitoring Plaintiff until delivery. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 11.) Parks-Johnson had previously informed Plaintiff that she might be on vacation when Plaintiff went into labor, in which case Dr. McCammon would assist her during her labor. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 19.) Plaintiff did meet McCammon for the first time on the morning of July 29, but McCammon was the attending physician on the floor and had little interaction with Plaintiff that day. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 7, 9, 11.) Da'Mya Fort was born later that evening, at 7:49 p.m. (Id. ¶ 10.)

Both Drs. Parks-Johnson and McCammon were employed by PCC in July 2004. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 15, 20.) Specifically, Parks-Johnson was employed through PCC as a maternal-child health fellowship physician at West Suburban. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 13.) In addition to the training she was receiving at West Suburban in obstetrics, where most of her decisions required the approval of a supervising physician, Parks-Johnson also had the privileges of an attending physician on the general medicine floors of the hospital, meaning she had unrestricted privileges on those floors. (Parks-Johnson Dep. 10:15-24, Ex. 1 to Pl.'s 56.1.) Prior to working for PCC, McCammon had completed a fellowship at West Suburban, and she retained her privileges at West Suburban after moving into private practice with PCC. (McCammon Dep. 8:14-9:14, Ex. 2 to Pl.'s 56.1.) At the time of Knighten's delivery, McCammon was an attending physician at West Suburban.*fn1 (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 17.)

PCC had a contractual relationship with West Suburban in which PCC doctors were permitted to practice in the West Suburban Medical Center. (Def.'s 56.1¶ 21.) The contract set forth the following provision concerning the relationship between the hospital and the PCC physicians:

2. Independent Contractor

In performing services pursuant to this agreement, PCC and each of the PCC physicians is, at all times, acting and performing as an independent contractor. West Suburban Medical Center shall neither have nor exercise any control over the methods, techniques or procedures by which PCC and each such physician shall perform his or her professional responsibilities and functions. (Id.) Parks-Johnson never told Plaintiff that she was an employee of West Suburban, but there is no evidence that she ever clearly expressed to Plaintiff that she was a contractor operating independently of West Suburban, either. (Id. ¶ 18.) The consent form signed by Plaintiff upon her admission to West Suburban on July 28 did not clarify Parks-Johnson's relationship with the hospital: "During your stay, your medical care will be managed by your attending physician, who may or may not be an employee of the hospital but has privileges to care for patients at this facility. Other physicians treating you during this admission . . . may not be employees of West Suburban . . . ." (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 23 (emphasis added).)

Plaintiff brought the present suit in March 2006, alleging negligence in her medical care that caused Da'Mya to be born with Erb's palsy.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 1.) In Counts I and IV of the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that West Suburban is liable for the actions of Drs. Parks-Johnson and McCammon as agents of the hospital. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 11.) West Suburban moved for summary judgment on these two counts, arguing that the doctors were neither actual nor apparent agents for the hospital.

DISCUSSION

The existence of an agency relationship between a doctor and a hospital is a proper question for summary judgment. Johnson v. Methodist Med. Ctr., 10 F.3d 1300, 1305 (7th Cir. 1993) (citing N. Trust Co. v. St. Francis Hosp., 168 Ill. App. 3d 270, 522 N.E.2d 699 (1st Dist. 1988)). Summary judgment is appropriate when, after reviewing the evidence submitted by the parties, the court determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c).

The court construes the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See, e.g., Amrehein v. Health Care Serv. Corp., 546 F.3d 854, 858 (7th Cir. 2008). The court does not weigh the evidence at this stage, but only determines whether a reasonable fact-finder could find in favor of the non-moving party. See Washington v. Haupert, 481 F.3d 543, 550 (7th Cir. 2007).

In counts I and IV of the Complaint, Plaintiff claims that the hospital is vicariously liable for the torts committed by Parks-Johnson and McCammon. A hospital may be held vicariously liable for torts committed by a physician acting as its agent. See Gilbert v. Sycamore Mun. Hosp., 156 Ill. 2d 511, 518, 622 N.E.2d 788, 792 (1993). Plaintiff does not appear to argue that an actual agency relationship existed between Drs. Parks-Johnson and McCammon and the hospital, and the evidence appears conclusive that the doctors were independent contractors and not agents of the hospital. Specifically, the contract between PCC and West Suburban states, in part, "In performing services pursuant to this agreement, PCC and each of the PCC physicians ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.