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Third Parties

Quality control programs become a legal issue only when a person or an institution is being sued for the negligent acts of someone either directly or indirectly under the control of the person or institution. This is a third party liability situation, in that a party not directly involved in the questioned incident (a third party in legal jargon) is being sued.

To hold a third party liable for an act of medical malpractice requires that the injured patient prove that the third party had a duty to prevent the injury, and that this duty was breached. This duty usually flows directly from a "master-servant" (employment) relationship between the negligent person and a third party who is being sued.

Recently, a second source of liability has been recognized in the medical environment. This theory is based on the legal concept of negligent entrustment. The theory of negligent entrustment does not require that the third party have a duty to supervise directly the actions of the negligent party. The basis of a lawsuit over negligent entrustment is that the third party have a duty to supervise directly the actions of the negligent party. The basis of a lawsuit over negligent entrustment is that the third party knew or should have known that the negligent person was unfit to perform the task that led to the negligent injury.

The classic legal context of this action is a lawsuit arising out of an automobile accident involving a borrowed car. The plaintiff sue both the driver and the owner of the car (usually because the drive has no insurance). To prevail against the owner of the car, the plaintiff must prove that (1) the driver was unfit to drive the car when the person borrowed it, and (2) the owner of the car either knew or should have known about this incapacity. If the plaintiff can prove these two points, it will establish that it was negligent for the owner of the car to entrust it to the person who borrowed the car.

The cause of action is important in the medical environment because it allows a patient to sue a hospital over the actions of members of its medical staff. The central legal role of a quality control program is to document that the hospital (or other third party provider) had no reason to believe that the negligent medical staff member was unqualified to have medical staff privileges.


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