Concierge medical practices are getting more and more popular.
Tampa Times reports on a concierge medical management company being held liable for a doctor’s negligence. MDVIP, the nation's largest concierge medicine practice, was founded 15 years ago and promises fast and excellent care for a $1500 annual participation fee.
The company took a huge blow on Tuesday when a jury returned an $8.5 million malpractice verdict against the company. The firm has nearly 800 affiliated physicians in 41 states, and numerous physicians in the Tampa Bay area. This is actually the first malpractice verdict against MDVIP, and it is probably the first against any concierge medical firm. The companies are popular because they give advantages such as same-day appointments and more personalized care with contracted doctors in return for the membership fee.
How did the case arise?
The case against MDVIP was brought by the wife of the late Joan Beber of Boca Raton, who had asked for medical attention for leg pain. Even though the plaintiff's lawyers described her condition as progressively worsening, she was repeatedly misdiagnosed by the concierge physician. Beber was told to go to orthopedists who they argued did not get her medical records or learn of her symptoms getting worse. The data, they argued, could have led to the discovery of a dangerous circulation problem that after some time called for serious above-the-knee amputation of her leg.
Why did the jury return a verdict against the company?
“The jury found MDVIP was liable for the negligence of one of its physicians, who was sued for misdiagnosing the cause of a patient's leg pain, leading to its amputation. The jury also found the firm had falsely advertised its exceptional doctors and patient care,” according to the article.
Experts in the industry say the decision is significant because it proves that concierge companies can be held liable for the care provided by their contracted doctors. The companies usually contend they do not actually give care but simply serve as brokers between physicians and patients.
MDVIP tried to defend itself by making the argument that it was not responsible for the actions of a physician with whom it had contracted.
Tampa Times reports, “MDVIP physicians are not directly employed by the company; the physicians pay the firm a per-patient fee for services such as marketing, branding, and other support. The physician, Dr. Metzger Jr., settled with the plaintiff's family before the trial. MDVIP representatives declined to be interviewed, but they indicated they would appeal the verdict. In a statement, the company said it and Metzger acted appropriately.”
One of the plaintiff's attorneys, Ms. Terry, told reporters the verdict will move MDVIP and similar companies to analyze doctors more strictly before they affiliate with them because they may be held liable for the physicians' actions.
Many health care attorneys are talking about how the verdict will change how such companies advertise that they offer superior care. Mr. Nelson, a healthcare attorney from L.A. said in a statement,
“A lot of people will be taking notice of this verdict…It's a shocking decision. The result of this decision is going to be more caution from the concierge medicine companies in terms of their claims of providing superior care.”
Thousands of physicians have moved to concierge type practices. Patients who see concierge physicians generally pay an annual fee, in addition to their insurance coverage, in return for easier access to doctors and more personalized care.
Here's what happens in a medical malpractice case in New York...
When you bring a lawsuit against a doctor who you believe violated the basic standards of medical care causing you harm, it is critical that we identify who the doctor was working for.
Was he a sole practitioner working by himself?
Was he working in a group practice?
Was he working for hospital?
Was he working for some type of company?
It is critical to know this information because we are required to sue the doctor and the company that employed the doctor.
In New York, there is a legal theory known as respondeat superior. There is also a legal theory known as vicarious liability.
Both of these theories mean that the employer is responsible for the acts of its employees.
It means that the employer who hires, controls and supervises the employee has an obligation to oversee what their employees are doing as well as making sure it is done properly.
In many cases, the wrongdoing by the employee is imputed to the company that employs him.
In this particular case, the concierge medicine company appears to be a type of management company that connects patients who want concierge medicine services. According to the the article, the concierge company does not actually employoy the doctors who participate in this service. Instead they claim only a contractual agreement between the concierge doctor and the management company for the payment of fees in exchange for marketing, management and connecting patients with their affiliated doctors.
What makes this verdict interesting is that a jury has imputed liability on the management company for the actions of their affiliated doctors.
The management company claims that they don't supervise their affiliated doctors. They claim they don't oversee what the doctors do or don't do, nor do they have any control over the medical decisions made by their affiliated physicians.
As noted in the article, the defense will certainly appeal this the verdict and it will be interesting to see what the Florida appellate court does with this novel issue decided by this jury.
To learn more about how vicarious liability works here in New York, invite you watch the video below...