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LEGAL MALPRACTICE-MEDICAL MALPRACTICE-VICARIOUS LIABILITY-CORPORATE CLAIM

August 28th, 2014 by Rieders Travis in Business and Corporations

Janice Sokolsky sued her attorney, Edward Eidelman, for malpractice.  One component of a legal malpractice case is that there was merit to the underlying claim.  The underlying claim here concerned a nursing home’s alleged failure to render proper care to a resident.  The court reexamined the general components for a medical malpractice case and laid forth those criteria accurately.  One might argue with the citation of authority that to pursue a claim for damages one must exhibit some “physical manifestation” of harm resulting from the injury.  At 863, citing Osborne v. Lewis, 59 A.3d 1109, 1114-1115 (Pa. Super. 2012), appeal denied 70 A.3d 812 (2013).  Certainly psychic injuries may be the basis for a claim.

 

Most importantly about the decision is the reiteration of the differences between direct and vicarious liability.  Preliminary objections are filed frequently in the Court of Common Pleas where plaintiff is said not to be explicit enough about who is negligent and why in the vicarious liability or corporate claim.  This opinion by Judge Mundy makes clear that the lower court erred as a matter of law when it ruled that Sokolsky could not establish her right to recovery on her vicarious liability claim solely because she did not base that claim on an individual staff member’s actions.

 

Simply because employees are unnamed within a complaint or referred to as a unit, i.e., the staff, does not preclude one’s claim against their employer under vicarious liability if the employees acted negligently during the course and within the scope of their employment.  At 866.

 

 

The vicarious liability claim attaches to defendant Manor Care and Lehigh Valley regardless of Sokolsky’s attack of an individual member of either entity’s nursing staff.  Sokolsky adduced sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of medical malpractice against the entities based upon their staff’s treatment of her.  Further, Sokolsky did identify a number of individual health care providers who she believed breached the duty of care.

 

With respect to the corporate claim, the court relied upon well-known prior case law to conclude that the trial court erred as a matter of law when dismissing Sokolsky’s corporate negligence claim.  As the Supreme Court concluded in Scampone v. Highland Park Care Center, LLC, 57 A.3d 582 (2012), the trial court must apply Section 323 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts or the factors set forth in Althaus v. Cohen, 756 A.2d 1166 (2000) in order to determine if a duty of care exists.  It is up to the trial court to determine if Manor Care owed Sokolsky any legal duties or obligations under those standards.

 

In terms of punitive damages, since the case will be reinstated, the trial court will have to determine whether punitive damages could stand.

 

As such, the decision to grant summary judgment in the underlying medical malpractice case was reversed. Sokolsky v. Eidelman, 93 A.3d 858 (Pa. Super. 2014).

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]