Anatomy of Medical Negligence Suit – Part 3 of 3

In my final post in this case, let’s ask who are the real targets of this suit – the nurse practitioner, the supervising doctor, or Harvard University? For those of you who said “Harvard University” (thinking correctly that it’s the world’s most famous university with billions of dollars in assets and endowments,) you’d be wrong. You see, shockingly enough, Harvard University, as an educational institution, is considered legally to be similar to a “charitable organization”, and as such in Massachusetts, enjoys limited immunity against liability suits. The operative statute is referred to among lawyers as the “charitable immunity cap.” Created by the legislature many, many years ago, its purpose was to shield charities such as hospitals and educational institutions from high liability judgments, such as might result from a medical negligence suit, so that they could be safeguarded in their “charitable” missions, from potential financial ‘ruin.’ Currently, the “charitable immunity cap” is $20,000.00; meaning that is the maximum they can be held civilly liable to pay in any liability judgment against them.

Both financially and legally, the real targets here are both the doctor and the nurse practitioner. Why? Because each of them is required to carry policies of professional liability insurance. These professional (malpractice) liability policies typically provide coverage of at least a million dollars each, and it is these policies that would provide indemnification (liability coverage) for each of these defendants. This type of insurance would pay for the verdicts or judgments issued against each defendant, subject to each policy’s limits. Harvard University is being named as defendant here, in its legal capacity as the employer of each of these to defendants. This is known as the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior.” Notwithstanding that Harvard would be named as a defendant in the suit, the university’s legal liability is still limited to the charitable immunity cap that it enjoys. So in the practical sense, this lawsuit, like all Massachusetts medical negligence or Massachusetts wrongful death cases, is a suit against the individual medical professionals who are alleged to have committed the specific negligence alleged.

Will this family win this suit? Obviously, I haven’t reviewed any of the relevant pleadings, or been party to any discovery yet conducted. It’s too early to say. But, as a Boston medical malpractice lawyer with over 15 years experience in this field, the facts as reported don’t look too promising for these defendants. Regardless of what happens, I wish the family of this young man the best in the days ahead. The loss of a child, never mind to suicide, is a devastating event for any family.

The Law firm of William D. Kickham And Associates has represented victims of medical negligence and medical malpractice for over 15 years. We know exactly how to litigate these cases, and advise potential clients and their families who may have been victims of medical negligence. If you or someone you know suspects that you may have been victim of medical negligence, contact us. We would be glad to provide you with a free consultation.

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