Healthcare News & Insights

Court: Hospital can be sued when one patient attacks another

A hospital’s job isn’t just to treat patients and keep them safe anymore — now you have to worry about keeping them safe from each other. That’s the upshot of a recent ruling from the Court of Appeals of Tennessee. The court ruled that a medical center can be held liable in a case where one patient sexually assaulted another on the premises.

In the case, a 20-year-old former patient was involuntarily admitted to HCA Health Services of Tennessee and Skyline Medical Center suffering from hallucinations. While a patient in the hospital, she claimed another male patient entered her room and sexually assaulted her in the shower. Staffers interrupted the attack, moved the female patient and placed her under tighter supervision.

She sued the next year, claiming that the hospital hadn’t monitored her closely enough, hadn’t given appropriate supervision to the male patient who attacked her and took in more patients than it had the ability to care for properly.

The hospital fought the suit, noting among other reasons that medical malpractice guidelines didn’t apply in this case. After a series of appeals, the court ruled that the hospital could be sued on the grounds of ordinary negligence.

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