Hospital cleared of liability for spine surgeon in wrongful death lawsuit


An Illinois hospital should not face vicarious liability claims over a spine surgeon's alleged negligence in a widower's wrongful death lawsuit, according to an Aug. 10 decision by an appellate court.

The court stated that Silver Cross Hospital and Medical Center in New Lenox should be cleared of liability because the spine surgeon in question, Anthony Rinella, MD, was an independent contractor, not one of its employees.

Tracy Delegatto, who underwent spine surgery to alleviate pain after a motor vehicle accident, wanted to have the surgery at Silver Cross Hospital and chose Dr. Rinella as her surgeon because he had privileges therel, according to court documents. On April 6, 2015, one week after her surgery, Ms. Delegatto died.

To defeat a claim of vicarious liability, Silver Cross had to prove that Ms. Delegatto had notice of Dr. Rinella's status as an independent contractor, the court said.

Ms. Delegatto signed consent forms at least three times acknowledging that an independent physician was performing the procedure, according to the court, which found the documents "clear and unambiguous."

The court ruled that the language in the consent forms did not create ambiguity and that there was no evidence to suggest that the hospital did not act in a manner that would leave Ms. Delegatto to reasonably conclude that Dr. Rinella was its employee..

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