The issue is whether the appellant, Paintsville Hospital, can be held liable on principles of ostensible agency or apparent authority for the negligence of a physician who was not employed by the hospital but who furnished treatment in the emergency room which was provided by the hospital and open to the public.
The complaint alleges that plaintiff's decedent, Grimsey Rose, age sixteen, was found unconscious on the street in Paintsville, Kentucky, with an impact point on his left jaw and his crushed glasses nearby; that he was taken from there to the emergency room at Paintsville Hospital by ambulance, and treated in the emergency room by Dr. K.J. Ikramuddin, who negligently failed to diagnose his condition.
Dr. Ikramuddin was a private physician, and not an employee of the hospital. However, she was on the staff of the hospital and performed emergency room services
According to Paintsville Hospital's Pretrial Memorandum, when the parents of Grimsey Rose arrived at the emergency room, the doctor discussed the problem of a possible drug reaction or a head injury with them and obtained permission to admit the patient to the hospital for overnight observation. She then arranged for his post-admission treatment by a different physician because her specialty was obstetrics and gynecology, and she then obtained payment by check for her services.
The trial court granted summary judgment to the hospital "on the issue of whether or not the hospital was vicariously liable for the acts and/or omissions, if any, of Dr. Kamar J. Ikramuddin." The trial court's finding that Dr. Ikramuddin had no actual agency relationship with the hospital at the time the doctor treated Grimsey Rose in the emergency room is not in dispute. The finding that no "ostensible agency" existed is the subject of this appeal. The record is devoid of reasons for or against this finding, except for the fact that the parents tried to employ the doctor to continue on with the care and treatment of the decedent beyond the time he was seen by her in the emergency room, and were refused, from which the trial court concludes that "the family of the decedent considered Dr. Ikramuddin to be a physician independent of the control of the hospital."
The Court of Appeals reversed the summary judgment. We affirm.
The proper function for a summary judgment in a case of this nature "is to terminate litigation when, as a matter of law, it appears that it would be impossible for the respondent to produce evidence at the trial warranting a judgment in his favor and against the movant." Roberson v. Lampton, Ky., 516 S.W.2d 838, 840 (1974). It is only proper where the movant shows that the adverse party could not prevail under any circumstances. Kaze v. Compton, Ky., 283 S.W.2d 204 (1955). Summary judgment is premature and should not be granted, "although the facts and evidence thus far developed do not establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact, [where] neither do they establish the non-existence of such an issue." Barton v. Gas Service Co., Inc., Ky., 423 S.W.2d 902, 904 (1968). In short, it is not a substitute for trial, nor is it the functional equivalent of a motion for directed verdict.
With this background it is clear that the record in the present case does not support granting a summary judgment if ostensible agency as alleged in the amended complaint is a viable legal theory under our law. The appellant claims that the record fails to establish that the decedent or his parents relied on the fact that Dr. Ikramuddin was an employee of the hospital in accepting her treatment. Neither does it refute it. Further, the cases applying the principle of ostensible agency to the hospital/emergency room physician situation, without exception, do not require an express representation to the patient that the treating physician is an employee of the hospital, nor do they require direct testimony as to reliance. A general representation to the public is implied from the circumstances. Without exception evidence sufficient to invoke the doctrine has been inferred from circumstances similar to those shown in the present case, absent evidence that the patient knew or should have known that the treating physician was not a hospital employee when the treatment was performed (not afterwards).
The landmark case applying the principle of ostensible agency to physicians not employed by the hospital but furnished through the institutional processes is Seneris v. Haas, 45 Cal.2d 811, 291 P.2d 915 (1955), where it was applied to an anesthesiologist. Since then few courts have
1) Adamski v. Tacoma General Hospital, 20 Wn.App. 98, 579 P.2d 970 (1978).
2) Vanaman v. Milford Memorial Hospital, Inc., 272 A.2d 718 (Del.1970).
3) Hannola v. City of Lakewood, 68 Ohio App.2d 61, 426 N.E.2d 1187 (1980).
4) Capan v. Divine Providence Hospital, 287 Pa.Super. 364, 430 A.2d 647 (1980).
5) Stewart v. Midani, 525 F.Supp. 843 (N.D.Ga.1981).
6) Themins v. Emanuel Lutheran Charity Board, 54 Or.App. 901, 637 P.2d 155 (1981).
7) Mehlman v. Powell, 281 Md. 269, 378 A.2d 1121 (1977).
8) Irving v. Doctors Hospital of Lake Worth, Inc., 415 So.2d 55 (Fla.App.1982).
9) Edmonds v. Chamberlain Memorial Hospital, 629 S.W.2d 28 (Ten.App.1981).
10) Mduba v. Benedictine Hospital, 52 A.D.2d 450, 384 N.Y.S.2d 527 (App.Div. 1976).
11) Arthur v. St. Peters Hospital, 169 N.J.Super. 575, 405 A.2d 443 (1979).
While there are no cases from our court applying the principle of ostensible agency to the present situation,
The principles of apparent or ostensible agent are discussed at length in Restatement (Second) of Agency § 267 (1958):
We cited the same section from the earlier edition of the Restatement of Agency with approval in Middleton v. Frances, supra. Further, the Restatement (Second) of Agency makes the following statement significant to our discussion in § 49, explaining the difference between "Interpretation of Apparent Authority Compared with Interpretation of Authority":
As stated by the Superior Court of New Jersey in discussing the public's reasonable expectation of emergency room physician
In these circumstances it is unreasonable to put a duty on the patient to inquire of each person who treats him whether he is an employee or independent contractor of the hospital. Grewe v. Mt. Clemens General Hospital, 404 Mich. 240, 273 N.W.2d 429 (1978). Indeed, it would be astonishing for courts to require a patient to ask emergency room personnel such a question considering the usual circumstances of the patient at the time he seeks out the emergency room for treatment.
The realities of the situation calls upon us to interpret ostensible agency as has been done by the courts of sister states, as evidenced by the following quotes:
Kentucky Hospital Association has filed an Amicus Brief in this case. It is apparent from that brief that Kentucky Hospital Association recognizes that the historical view of hospitals as hotels providing rooms, buildings where private medical practitioners treat private patients, represented by Stacy v. Williams, 253 Ky. 353, 69 S.W.2d 697 (1934), is no longer viable. This obsolete view of hospitals, deriving from Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital, 211 N.Y. 125, 105 N.E.92 (1914), was rejected by that same New York court in Bing v. Thunig, 2 N.Y.2d 656, 143 N.E.2d 3, 163 N.Y.S.2d 3 (1957). Bing obliterated the former distinction made on agency questions between the physician exercising independent professional judgment and the non-professional hospital employees, and imposed vicarious liability on the hospital for both situations where agency exists.
The circumstances under which the hospital is liable are not unlimited. But the operation of a hospital emergency room open to the public, where the public comes expecting medical care to be provided through normal operating procedures within the hospital, falls within the limits for application of the principles of ostensible agency and apparent authority.
The decision of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.
STEPHENS, C.J., and GANT, LEIBSON and WINTERSHEIMER, JJ., concur.
VANCE, J., files a dissenting opinion in which AKER and STEPHENSON, JJ., join.
VANCE, Justice, dissenting.
I fully recognize that there may be cases in which an ostensible agency may be proved and that until a prima facie case has been made that no genuine issue of fact exists a plaintiff's claim should not summarily be dismissed.
There are two conditions which must be shown to exist before liability can be imposed upon the basis of ostensible agency. First, the ostensible principal must have engaged in conduct of such a nature as to cause a reasonable person to believe that an agency relationship existed, although actually there was no agency. Secondly, the person seeking to impose liability upon one who is ostensibly a principal for the tort of one who is ostensibly, but not actually, an agent must in fact believe that an agency relationship did exist and must act in reliance upon that belief.
Ostensible agency is agency by estoppel and is to be distinguished from implied agency.
In Middleton v. Frances, 257 Ky. 42, 77 S.W.2d 425 (1934), the Kentucky case cited in the majority opinion as recognizing the principle of ostensible agency, the precise question of reliance by the claimant therein was not discussed in the opinion, but the opinion did allude generally to the fact of reliance upon the ostensible agency as a necessary element in imposing liability upon an ostensible principal.
In this case, the deceased was found lying unconscious on the streets. He was unconscious when taken to the hospital. I believe a prima facie case was established that the deceased did not, in his condition upon admission, rely upon a belief that the emergency room physician was, in fact, an agent of the hospital. Indeed, the complaint does not even claim that there was any reliance upon an ostensible agency. The physician who originally admitted deceased to the hospital told his parents, who later came to the hospital, that the injuries suffered by their son were outside her field of specialization and recommended that they secure the services of another physician.
The majority opinion, in my view, drastically revises the law pertaining to ostensible agency in that, without expressly saying so, it abolishes reliance upon the alleged ostensible agency as a necessary prerequisite to the imposition of liability upon the ostensible principal.
A prima facie case was established here that there was no such reliance, and the summary judgment should be upheld.
The majority cites Roberson v. Lampton, Ky., 516 S.W.2d 838 (1974), and Kaze v. Compton, Ky., 283 S.W.2d 204 (1955), for the proposition that summary judgment should not be granted unless it can be shown that the respondent could not possibly produce evidence at trial which would entitle him to prevail. Roberson v. Lampton, supra, dealt with a summary judgment which was entered before discovery was completed and, in effect, only holds that the case was not ready for summary judgment.
In my view, summary judgment is never to be substituted for a trial, but under C.R. 56, if a party can make a prima facie case that no genuine issue of fact exists, the opposing party has the duty to come forward with something to rebut the prima facie case, and upon his failure to do so, summary judgment may properly be entered.
AKER and STEPHENSON, JJ., join in this dissent.