Concierge, ACOs and IPAs Beware of Vicarious Liability

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By Tom Murphy

On February 10, 2015, a Palm Beach County jury returned a verdict of $8.5 million against MDVIP, the  largest concierge medical practice in the country. This is believed to be the first medical-malpractice verdict against MDVIP and the first against any concierge physician-management company.

The verdict confirmed that the jury found MDVIP to be negligent for the actions of one of its physicians who had been sued for misdiagnosing a patient’s leg pain. Eventually, the patient required an amputation of the leg. In addition, the jury determined that MDVIP had falsely advertised their exceptional physicians and patient care. The physician settled the case with the patient prior to the trial. The company plans to appeal the verdict.

This should be a wakeup call to all concierge medical practices, as well as accountable-care organizations and independent physician associations regarding the potential for vicarious liability associated with the care provided by their member physicians or medical providers. Until this verdict, most of these forms of medical-management companies believed that this type of liability did not exist since the physicians are not employees and are contracted to pay a per-patient fee for management services and marketing.

Over the past couple of years, concierge, ACO, and IPA companies have been busy trying to build their businesses while at the same time attempting to comply with all of the newly implemented regulations associated with ACA, HIPAA, and ICD-10. We have found that liability and risk-management issues have not been a priority. Given this recent verdict, these items should become a priority and the leaders of similar physician companies should immediately revisit their current professional-liability policies with a medical-professional-liability-insurance specialist.