Below is a sample stipulation releasing the doctors and just suing the hospital for the doctor’s conduct. We will explain the rationale for this in a moment. But just keep one thing in mind: if you screw up this stipulation, you can inadvertently dismiss the hospital, and your entire case can be dismissed. So make sure you get the details of the stipulation correct.
Why Dismiss the Doctors and Sue the Hospital?
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, there are several reasons why a jury might be more inclined to hold a hospital responsible for a doctor’s mistake rather than blaming the doctor directly:
- Perception of the Hospital as a System: Juries might perceive a hospital as a system with established protocols and standards. If a mistake occurs, they may be more likely to attribute it to systemic issues or failures in the hospital’s processes than to an individual doctor’s error. This perception aligns with the belief that hospitals should have checks and balances to prevent individual mistakes. So it streamlines the “system failure” argument.
- Financial Capability and Responsibility: Hospitals are generally seen as having greater financial resources compared to individual doctors. Juries might feel that hospitals are better equipped to compensate for damages, especially in severe cases requiring substantial compensation. You have to remember that jurors are not told there is insurance. They usually assume it, but you do not need that defendant if there is enough coverage with the doctor.
- Vicarious Liability: Under the legal doctrine of vicarious liability, employers (in this case, the hospital) are often held responsible for the actions of their employees (the doctors) performed within the scope of their employment. Juries might be more inclined to apply this principle, seeing the doctor’s actions as a reflection of the hospital’s overall level of care and supervision.
- It Is Easier to Blame a Hospital: Juries like doctors. They would rather blame a faceless institution. This allows them to do just that.
Example Stipulation of Dismissal
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR BALTIMORE CITY
JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL, et al.
CASE NO.: 24-C-10-009077
Joint Stipulation to Release Doctors
Sharon Smith, by her attorneys, and Defendants Johns Hopkins Hospital, Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, Inc, Dr. David Hunter, Dr. Beth O’Connor, and Judith Jones, by their attorneys, hereby file this Joint Stipulation stipulate as follows:
- That all of the Defendants hereby withdraw the “Defendants’ Motion To Dismiss For Improper Venue, or in the Alternative, Motion to Transfer Venue on Grounds of Improper Venue or Forum Non-Conveniens and agree that the case at bar shall remain in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City for litigation.
- That Defendants Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, Inc., agree and stipulate that all of the remaining individual doctor defendants were their employees for the entire time that the Plaintiff was receiving medical care and treatment at their medical facilities as outlined in the Plaintiff’s Complaint, and were working within the scope of that employment during the time that they rendered medical care and treatment to the Plaintiff.
- The Plaintiff will dismiss her medical malpractice complaint against the individual defendants only with prejudice and the individual defendants will not be later added as defendants.
- Defendants Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, Inc., agree and stipulate that any Defendant shall in no way, shape or form utilize this dismissal with prejudice against the individual defendants as a bar to the Plaintiff pursuing her claim against Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, Inc.
- Defendants Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, Inc., agree and stipulate that the Plaintiff retains the right to pursue her claim against Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, Inc., based upon the legal theory of agency/respondeat superior/vicarious liability, based upon the allegations made against the individual defendants, and the alleged acts and omissions of the individual defendants, notwithstanding the dismissal of her claim against the individual defendants with prejudice.
- Defendants Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, Inc., hereby forever waive any defense because Plaintiff has dismissed her claim against the individual defendants herein.
- Defendants Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, Inc., will take all steps necessary to make the individual defendants available to be deposed by the Plaintiff and agree that these depositions will occur at the Plaintiff’s attorneys’ law office in Baltimore, Maryland. This will include accepting service of any subpoena that may be issued for the individual defendants to appear for their respective depositions. The individual defendants agree that Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, Inc. have permission to accept service for any subpoena issued in the case at bar that directs them to appear for any deposition and trial by and through their counsel.
- That Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, Inc. stipulate and agree that Plaintiff can use the depositions of the individual doctors for any purpose permitted under Maryland Law and the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure as if the individual defendants were still adverse parties to the litigation at bar. This includes explicitly reading into evidence at trial the deposition testimony of the individual doctors provided that the testimony is otherwise admissible.
- The individual defendants dismissed from the litigation at bar agree and stipulate that they will appear for any duly noted deposition and at trial if so subpoenaed.
Thoughts on Settlement Agreements
One thing is sure: defense counsel loves to draft settlement releases that provide protection they do not deserve. Most of it is harmless. Two things to keep a watch out for
- Confidentially of settlement: they are not entitled to it unless it was negotiated in advance, and, more importantly.
- Language that indemnifies the doctor or hospital for unforeseeable claims.
More Links for Malpractice Lawyers
- Sample Attorney Deposition of Medical Malpractice Doctor (sample defendant deposition)
- Sample Certificate of Merit in Maryland (example of a certificate of merit that meets the Walzer standard)
- Sample Attorney Deposition of Defendant Doctor’s Medical Expert (sample deposition of the doctor’s expert)