Vanaman v. Milford Memorial Hospital, Inc.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Delaware
Writing for the CourtWOLCOTT, C.J., DUFFY, Chancellor, and SHORT; DUFFY
Citation272 A.2d 718
PartiesBarbara L. VANAMAN, an Infant, by her next friend, Nancy M. Vanaman, Walter Lee Vanaman and Nancy M. Vanaman, Plaintiffs Below, Appellants, v. MILFORD MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, INC., a Delaware corporation, Defendant Below, Appellee, and C. Edward Graybeal, Defendant Below.
Decision Date21 December 1970

Page 718

272 A.2d 718
Barbara L. VANAMAN, an Infant, by her next friend, Nancy M.
Vanaman, Walter Lee Vanaman and Nancy M. Vanaman,
Plaintiffs Below, Appellants,
v.
MILFORD MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, INC., a Delaware corporation,
Defendant Below, Appellee,
and
C. Edward Graybeal, Defendant Below.
Supreme Court of Delaware.
Dec. 21, 1970.

Page 719

Upon appeal from Superior Court. Reversed.

Houston Wilson, Georgetown, and Courtney H. Cummings, Jr., of Killoran & Van Brunt, Wilmington, for plaintiffs below, appellants.

Victor F. Battaglia, of Biggs & Battaglia, Wilmington, for Milford Memorial Hospital, Inc., defendant below, appellee.

WOLCOTT, C.J., DUFFY, Chancellor, and SHORT, Vice Chancellor, sitting.

DUFFY, Chancellor:

This appeal brings up for review an order of the Superior Court granting a summary judgment to the defendant hospital in a malpractice suit. Del.Super., 262 A.2d 263 (1970).

A.

Barbara L. Vanaman, plaintiff, (and her parents) seek damages for injuries which she allegedly sustained as a result of the negligence of Milford Memorial Hospital, Inc., (Hospital) and Dr. C. Edward Graybeal, defendants, Miss Vanaman at age 16 fell and twisted her ankle. When her family physician could not be reached, she was taken to the Hospital about two hours after the fall. Dr. Graybeal, a staff member then on duty, ordered X-rays; a fracture was identified and the doctor put a cast on her left leg.

The complaint alleges that the cast was too tight, that it resulted in injuries to plaintiff, and that there was a failure to diagnose and treat the resulting physical condition. As a consequence thereof, it is alleged, Miss Vanaman suffered injuries to the vascular, lymph, cellular and/or nervous system, tissues and cells of her leg. Plaintiff contends that the Hospital is responsible for Dr. Graybeal's alleged negligence. The Hospital argues that Dr. Graybeal was not its servant, agent or employee. 1

Page 720

Since liability of the Hospital is based entirely on what Dr. Graybeal did, the appeal raises a single question: If malpractice is proved, may the Hospital be held responsible for it? The Court below held as a matter of law that the Hospital could not be. In our view the answer to that question depends on findings of fact which cannot be made on the present record.

B.

The law applicable in malpractice claims asserted against a hospital has its uncertainties, but in two fact situations it is clear:

The first is this: a sick or injured person consults his own doctor for diagnosis and treatment; the doctor recommends hospital care; thereafter the doctor treats him in the hospital; the patient pays all expenses, including fees directly to the doctor. In this situation the law commonly regards the doctor as an independent contractor in his relationship to the hospital and to the patient. The hospital is not liable for malpractice by the doctor.

The second, at the other end of the spectrum, is this: a sick or injured person is taken directly to a hospital; his problem is diagnosed and he is there treated by a doctor employed by the hospital (as an intern, resident, or in some other capacity). The hospital is liable for malpractice by that doctor under the doctrine of Respondeat superior.

See Annotation: 69 A.L.R.2d 309.

The Court below examined the practice at the Hospital under which a paying patient applying for admission without a doctor of his own was assigned to a member of the active medical staff on service in rotation. Relying on Johnson v. City Hospital Co., 196 N.C. 610, 146 S.E. 573 (1929), and Smith v. Duke University, 219 N.C. 628, 14 S.E.2d 643 (1941), the Court concluded that the Hospital was merely providing a referral service in introducing Dr. Graybeal to Miss Vanaman and, in so doing, did not make him its servant nor did it incur any liability for his conduct. Neither Johnson nor Smith arose in an emergency context, and in neither case did the Court find evidentiary facts from which a holding-out-as-agent could be determined.

C.

It is elementary, of course, that a summary judgment may be granted only if, on undisputed facts, the moving party establishes that he is entitled to that judgment as a matter of law. Any application for such a judgment must be denied if there is any reasonable hypothesis by which the opposing party may recover, or if there is a dispute as to a material fact or the inferences to be drawn therefrom.

As the opinion below demonstrates, there are facts in the record from which it may be found that the Hospital did no more than refer plaintiff to Dr. Graybeal. 2 If that be so found, then the doctor...

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76 practice notes
  • Torrence v. Kusminsky, Nos. 19864
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 29, 1991
    ...with Rose. See e.g., Heddinger v. Ashford Memorial Community Hosp., 734 F.2d 81 (1st Cir.1984); Vanaman v. Milford Memorial Hosp., Inc., 272 A.2d 718 (Del.1970); Irving v. Doctors Hosp. of Lake Worth, Inc., 415 So.2d 55 (Fla.App.), review denied, 422 So.2d 842 (1982); Mehlman v. Powell, 281......
  • Quinn v. Kent General Hosp., Inc., Civ. A. No. 84-509 CMW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Delaware)
    • August 16, 1985
    ...St. Francis Hospital, Inc., 46 Del. 350, 83 A.2d 753 (1951), and Vanaman v. Milford Hospital, Inc., 262 A.2d 263 (Del.Super.1970), rev'd., 272 A.2d 718 (Del.1970), explicitly reject the doctrine of charitable immunity. The defendants argue, however, that the Delaware Supreme Court has not d......
  • Cefaratti v. Aranow, SC 19443
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 14, 2016
    ...754 (adopting reasonable belief standard), appeal denied, 2007 Cal. LEXIS 10631 (Cal. 2007); Vanaman v. Milford Memorial Hospital, Inc., 272 A.2d 718, 722 (Del. 1970) (adopting justifiable reliance standard of § 267 of Restatement [Second] of Agency, supra); Stone v. Palms West Hospital, 94......
  • Cefaratti v. Aranow, No. 19443.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 14, 2016
    ...754 (adopting reasonable belief standard), appeal denied, 2007 Cal. LEXIS 10631 (Cal.2007); Vanaman v. Milford Memorial Hospital, Inc., 272 A.2d 718, 722 (Del.1970) (adopting justifiable reliance standard of § 267 of Restatement [Second] of Agency, supra); Stone v. Palms West Hospital, 941 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
76 cases
  • Torrence v. Kusminsky, Nos. 19864
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 29, 1991
    ...with Rose. See e.g., Heddinger v. Ashford Memorial Community Hosp., 734 F.2d 81 (1st Cir.1984); Vanaman v. Milford Memorial Hosp., Inc., 272 A.2d 718 (Del.1970); Irving v. Doctors Hosp. of Lake Worth, Inc., 415 So.2d 55 (Fla.App.), review denied, 422 So.2d 842 (1982); Mehlman v. Powell, 281......
  • Quinn v. Kent General Hosp., Inc., Civ. A. No. 84-509 CMW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Delaware)
    • August 16, 1985
    ...St. Francis Hospital, Inc., 46 Del. 350, 83 A.2d 753 (1951), and Vanaman v. Milford Hospital, Inc., 262 A.2d 263 (Del.Super.1970), rev'd., 272 A.2d 718 (Del.1970), explicitly reject the doctrine of charitable immunity. The defendants argue, however, that the Delaware Supreme Court has not d......
  • Cefaratti v. Aranow, SC 19443
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 14, 2016
    ...754 (adopting reasonable belief standard), appeal denied, 2007 Cal. LEXIS 10631 (Cal. 2007); Vanaman v. Milford Memorial Hospital, Inc., 272 A.2d 718, 722 (Del. 1970) (adopting justifiable reliance standard of § 267 of Restatement [Second] of Agency, supra); Stone v. Palms West Hospital, 94......
  • Cefaratti v. Aranow, No. 19443.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 14, 2016
    ...754 (adopting reasonable belief standard), appeal denied, 2007 Cal. LEXIS 10631 (Cal.2007); Vanaman v. Milford Memorial Hospital, Inc., 272 A.2d 718, 722 (Del.1970) (adopting justifiable reliance standard of § 267 of Restatement [Second] of Agency, supra); Stone v. Palms West Hospital, 941 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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