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Institutional Negligence: What it Means, Who’s to Blame, and How You Can Achieve Justice

March 3, 2022  ·  By HM&M

Institutional Negligence: What it Means, Who’s to Blame, and How You Can Achieve Justice

Victims of institutional negligence are entitled to hold the organization that overlooks or covers-up medical misconduct liable in a court of law.

Institutional negligence is when an incident occurs at a hospital, “surgicenter,” or other health care facility at which time the independent duty to supervise and ensure that care is safely provided is violated. This violation results in injury or abuse to a patient. 

In situations where institutional negligence occurs, specifically sexual assaults, formal reports or complaints are often overlooked, covered-up, or blatantly ignored. 

So, how can a victim hold both the perpetrator and the institution responsible? Our skilled attorneys will guide you through your journey to justice. But first, understand the basis of your case.

HMM’s Mark McKenna explains the difference between institutional negligence and medical malpractice.

What Is Institutional Negligence?

Institutional negligence occurs when a hospital, nursing home, “surgicenter” or other health care facility violates its independent duty to supervise and ensure that care is safely provided in its facility, resulting in injury to a patient. Over forty years ago, the Illinois Supreme Court in Darling v. Charleston Community Memorial Hospital, 33 I11.2d 326 (1965), held that hospitals have an independent duty to act in a reasonably careful manner in the administration and management of the institution and the care of its patients. 

The following are several examples of ways that hospitals and health care facilities can violate their duty to patients and be institutionally negligent:

  • Negligent supervision: when a hospital, nursing home or health care facility fails to adequately supervise the medical providers at the facility. This type of negligence occurs, for example:
    • When the hospital governing board allows physicians at the hospital to perform unnecessary surgeries on patients as part of a scheme to defraud health insurers or government agencies.
    • When hospital or nursing home management personnel fail to supervise the activities of employees such as physicians, aides, orderlies or nurses, which results in physical or sexual abuse and assault of a patient.
  • Failure to institute adequate policies and procedures: when the hospital fails to establish and enforce adequate written rules governing how physicians and nurses should care for patients. For example, a hospital is negligent where it fails to have an adequate policy that outlines measures to prevent sexual abuse of patients.
  • Failure to provide an effective “Chain of Command:”  Hospital employees—namely nurses—have a duty to monitor physician care of patients, and to promptly report misconduct to the health care facility’s administration.  In addition, hospital nurses also must “go up the chain-of-command” and report to a supervisor if they observe a physician fail to provide quality care to a patient, or if a physician engages in inappropriate behavior with a patient.  
  • Negligent credentialing: when a hospital, nursing home or health care facility fails to be reasonably careful in granting staff privileges to a physician, podiatrist or other health care provider who subsequently commits malpractice that results in injury. Health care institutions must ensure that their staff members and physicians are adequately educated, trained, and experienced before granting privileges to perform procedures.

Recent events show that hospitals and health care facilities that fail to properly supervise their employees create an atmosphere that enables the sexual abuse of patients.   When sexual abuse occurs, it can be difficult for a victim to understand who is to blame. 

In most circumstances, victims of sexual abuse suffer for a lifetime, often blaming themselves for the criminal behavior of another. Some victims do seek justice against their abusers. However, what many do not realize is that in seeking justice against their abusers, they may also seek justice against the institutions that allowed the abuses to occur. 

Reasons why an institution could be held liable include but are not limited to:

  • Failure to create an environment that makes abuse unknown
  • Unchecked complaints/reports
  • Improper process for victims to submit reports

Who’s to Blame for Sexual Abuse? 

Unfortunately, some poorly run hospitals, “surgicenters,” and health care facilities provide the perfect environment for sexual predators. In institutions that are understaffed, like most in today’s health care industry, sexual predators can target victims without the fear of being discovered and, unfortunately, patients can quickly become victims. 

Many victims are shocked to discover that the institutions they trusted knew about the abuser, did nothing to stop them, and in some cases covered up the abuse. In circumstances where abuse was not covered up, but occurred due to lack of proper procedure or environmental regulations, the institution may be found liable and victims may seek remedy from the institutions versus seeking remedy from the individual abuser. 

How You Can Achieve Justice

In the state of Illinois, sexual abuse victims can not only take legal action against their abuser in hopes of recovering monetary damages, but they can also take action against the institution that created the environment which fostered the abusive actions. Victims of institutional negligence may also report the abuser to their state’s Department of Professional Regulation. 

You have a right to pursue legal action against your abuser and/or the institution at which the abuse occurred. At Hurley McKenna & Mertz, our trusted sexual abuse attorneys can help victims initiate legal action

If you or your loved one has been a victim of institutional negligence in a healthcare facility, contact the lawyers at Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. for legal representation. Our Chicago sexual abuse lawyers assist clients in the city, throughout the surrounding Cook County suburbs, and across the nation.

For a free consultation, contact Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. today at 312-553-4900 or fill out our online form to have a lawyer contact you.

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