Supreme Court of Virginia Grants Cert in Respondeat Superior Case


Hat tip to the Virginia Lawyers Weekly for covering a story about a recent case that may have a far-reaching impact on the doctrine of respondeat superior in Virginia. The Supreme Court of Virginia has granted certiorari in a case out of Portsmouth Circuit Court, Westermann v. Bermisa M.D. (Va. Lawyers Weekly subscription needed) that could have wide implications for the application of the doctrine of respondeat superior liability across Virginia. Respondeat superior holds employers liable for the negligence of their employees, when their employee acted negligently within the “scope and course” of his employment and that negligence caused injury to another.

In Westermann, a 24 year old man went to his physician complaining of chest pain and cough. The defendant doctor prescribed cough syrup, but also ordered a chest x-ray, to check for pneumonia. The doctor received the x-rays the next day, when the patient returned to his office for a follow up visit, but the doctor failed to review the results of the x-ray in time to inform his patient of the results. In fact, he did not review the x-ray until two days after the second visit, when he discovered the patient had pneumonia.

The defendant doctor’s office then attempted to call the patient with the results, but mis-dialed the number and never succeeded in contacting the patient. The patient was found unresponsive in his home later the same day and died shortly thereafter in the hospital.

Please see full article below for more information.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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