Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital May Be Vicariously Liable for Negligence of UMDNJ Employees

By Michael Zerres

In a case involving an unauthorized autopsy of a deceased child by UMDNJ employed pathologists following a termination of pregnancy at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the defendant hospital moved to be dismissed from the case arguing it did not employ the UMDNJ employees. While true, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (Joel Pisano USDJ) ruled that the hospital may be liable for the negligent conduct of the UMDNJ employees pursuant to the doctrine of “apparent authority” established in the case of Cordero v. Christ Hospital, 403 N.J. Super. 306 (App. Div. 2008).

In Thompson v. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63980, Judge Pisano concluded that, utilizing the theory of “apparent authority” pronounced in Cordero, “there is no evidence that RWJ informed plaintiffs that the pathology department at the hospital was contracted out to UMDNJ or that plaintiffs were given an opportunity to select or reject the care provided by the pathology department.” In such circumstances, “a juror could find that plaintiffs formed a reasonable belief that the doctors in the pathology department were agents of RWJ,” leaving open the opportunity for plaintiffs to obtain a verdict against the hospital for the unauthorized autopsy performed by the UMDNJ employed pathologists.

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