DOVER, Del. (Legal Newsline) – Christiana Care Health Services Inc. was released from any liability when the woman suing it over allegations of medical negligence signed on to a settlement agreement, the Supreme Court of Delaware ruled on Dec. 2.
While CCHS was not a party to the settlement or release that plaintiff Meeghan Carter agreed to with Dr. Michael Principe, who performed the surgery related to the case, the Supreme Court determined that the terms of the agreement that Carter signed also freed CCHS from any liability and overturned a ruling from the Delaware Superior Court that denied CHHS’ motion for partial summary judgment.
“The written release operated as a complete satisfaction of the plaintiff’s vicarious liability claim against CCHS arising from Dr. Principe’s alleged conduct,” wrote Justice James. T. Vaughn.
Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. and Justice Gary Traynor also ruled on the case.
Vaughn wrote that not too long after CCHS requested its motion for partial summary judgment following the settlement agreement, the plaintiff and Dr. Eric Johnson, who was Principe’s assistant in the surgery, agreed that the claims were dismissed.
Still, while Carter stated that CCHS’s liability isn’t the same as Principe’s, the Supreme Court was unpersuaded by the argument.
Considering the Supreme Court agreed with this argument from CCHS, Vaughn wrote he didn’t need to address CCHS’ other argument that the release of a party from a vicarious liability claim also releases the viability claim against the other principal.
Carter sued CCHS, Principe and Johnson over allegations that surgery caused her mother, Margaret Rackerby Flint, to die two days after the operation. Carter came to a settlement agreement with her claims against Principe and his practice and agreed to release all claims. But when CCHS filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the grounds that the release of Principe released it from any vicarious liability, the Superior Court denied it, resulting in the case going to the current Supreme Court.