Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Consider the Scope of Nursing Facility Liability

Author: Marc L. Penchansky

On May 3, 2011, Appellants’ brief was due in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for the case of Scampone v. Highland Park Care Center, et al. The issue before the Supreme Court was framed as follows: “Whether the Superior Court erred in applying the corporate negligence theory, initially adopted by this Court in Thompson v. Nason Hospital, 591 A.2d 703 (Pa. 1991), to a skilled nursing facility and the healthcare company responsible for its operations.”

In Thompson, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court expanded the potential liability of hospitals by adopting the theory of corporate liability, which is based on the systematic or institutional negligence of the hospital itself rather than the conduct of individual employees or physicians. Specifically, the Thompson Court held that a hospital owes certain direct and non-delegable duties to a patient, which include: (1) a duty to use reasonable care in the maintenance of safe and adequate facilities and equipment, (2) a duty to select and retain only competent physicians, (3) a duty to oversee all persons who practice medicine within its walls as to patient care, and (4) a duty to formulate, adopt and enforce adequate rules and policies to ensure quality care to patients. The basis for the expansion of liability was the hospital’s role as a comprehensive health care provider.
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