Copyright (c) 1995 The Campbell Law Review
Campbell Law Review
NOTE: THE VICARIOUS LIABILITY OF A PHYSICIAN FOR THE NEGLIGENCE OF OTHER MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS -- NORTH CAROLINA CHARTS A MIDDLE COURSE -- THE EFFECT OF Harris v. Miller 1
17 Campbell L. Rev. 375
J. Scott Coalter
"In short, just as a rule making a surgeon liable for every negligent act of every hospital employee under his [or her] control is too harsh, a rule exculpating ... [a surgeon] for every negligent act of persons under his [or her] control simply because they are not his [or her] employees is too lenient." 2
Paramedics rush an automobile accident victim into the hospital emergency room. The treating physician quickly tells a nurse to obtain x-rays of the patient's head, ribs, leg, and spine. The nurse fails to request x-rays of the patient's spine when filling out the x-ray requisition form. As a result, the patient's spinal injury is aggravated because the injury is not promptly diagnosed. 3 Under these facts, a physician could be held vicariously liable 4 for the negligence of the nurse, 5 depending on how the jurisdiction applies the doctrine of respondeat superior. 6 In Harris v. Miller, 7 the North Carolina Supreme Court enunciated the standard that must be used to determine whether a physician is liable for the acts of other medical professionals. 8 Vicarious liability is imposed on a physician if the physician in fact possessed the right to control the other medical professional at the time the neg- ligence occurred. 9 The North Carolina Supreme Court arrived at this standard by examining the traditional test for liability under the borrowed servant rule. 10 In doing so, the supreme court overruled both Jackson v. Joyner, 11 which ...
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