Nurse Escapes Liability Due to Sovereign Immunity

We all depend on medical professionals to take care of us while we are in the hospital. However, what we may not realize is that some hospitals can escape liability just because the hospital is operated by the state.

Doctor in WhiteIn a recent case, a man had surgery to reconstruct the back of his mouth at a state university hospital. He was then taken to the intensive care unit in the hospital to recover. The care required in the unit is complex because patients are often in very critical condition. Each nurse cares for two patients at most at a time. The nurses are required to closely monitor patients and carry out the orders given by the surgery team.

After the man’s surgery, his head had to be kept stable to enable blood flow. The doctors responsible for the man’s care did not write any specific orders about how to position his head or neck. On the day after the surgery, notes indicated that the man’s head should be kept “in a neutral position,” but nurses are not required to read these notes. Five days after the surgery, the man was found with his neck tilted to the right, and the staff present were told to avoid this practice. Later that day, he was again found with his head in the same position. His face and neck were very swollen, and he had to undergo additional surgery due to the swelling, which was unsuccessful.

The man filed a medical malpractice claim, alleging that the nurse was negligent in caring for him in the intensive care unit. In response, the nurse argued that she was immune from suit because of sovereign immunity. That state’s supreme court agreed that the nurse was immune from suit. The hospital was a state university hospital, which paid the nurse a set salary, set her hours, and approved her vacation time. The nurse was acting in her capacity as an employee of the hospital, which the state has an interest in staffing with efficient and competent employees. As a result, she was acting in her capacity as a state employee, and she was protected by sovereign immunity.

Sovereign Immunity

Sovereign immunity protects state, local, and federal governments from lawsuits in some situations. In Illinois, as a general rule, the state cannot be sued in the circuit court. Any lawsuits against the state must be brought in the Court of Claims, but sovereign immunity still bars many claims. However, there are a number of exceptions that may apply. For example, a state can waive immunity in certain cases and consent to being sued, which can be done by passing state laws. A state could also be subject to suits when the individual’s duty is not within the scope of the employment. In Illinois, this is used primarily in medical malpractice claims and in automobile negligence claims. There are other exceptions as well, but it depends on the specific facts of the case and issues involved.

Have You Been Injured at a State Hospital?

If you have suffered from medical malpractice at a state hospital, you need to consider whether your claim is barred by sovereign immunity. However, your claim may fall under one of the many exceptions, and it important that you seek legal help. The Chicago attorneys at Moll Law Group can advise people who have suffered from a misdiagnosis, a surgical error, a birth injury, or another form of medical malpractice. Billions of dollars have been recovered in cases in which we were involved. Contact us through our online form or call us at 312-462-1700 to arrange a free initial consultation.

See More Posts:

Recent Study Highlights Risks of Emergency Surgeries, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, May 18, 2016.

Court Finds Nursing Home Waived Its Right to Arbitration Despite Signed Arbitration Clause, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, June 13, 2016.

Woman Injured by Hot Air Balloon While Standing in Line Permitted to Sue Despite Signed Waiver, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, May 11, 2016.