Robbed while in the hospital, who is liable?

by Sabrina
(Laurel, MS, USA)

While I was in the hospital on the last night of my stay, my friend came to visit and we walked around the hospital for a little while (just so I could get out of the room). This is the only time I left the room during my 4 day stay.

The night I came home, my phone rang and a lady claimed that she had found some of mine and my friend's belongings scattered in her yard. I checked my purse and my wallet and checkbook was gone. I called my friend and she said her wallet had been stolen also, but she hadn't been sure where it had been taken from until I called her.

I reported it too the hospital and they informed me that they don't have cameras in their hallways. I called backed a few days later and the lady in patient services informed me that she had spoken to her employees and no one knew anything about it. Today I checked my bank account balance and the thief already wrote $416.00 worth of checks from my account.

I'll be going to the bank first thing in the morning, since I did have an alert on my account. But I think the hospital should be liable for something since I was robbed while in their care. What do you think? Where is the liability in this situation? Thanks.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Robbed while in the hospital, who is liable?":

Sabrina (Laurel, MS):

While staying in a hospital patients are quite vulnerable. They usually cannot run away from danger, or react quickly enough to protect themselves from injury. As a result the courts have traditionally held hospitals to very high standards of care for its patients.

A hospital’s fiduciary relationship with its patients normally begins from the minute the patient is admitted, right up until the patient is discharged and leaves the hospital.

You may have wondered why, after spending even the shortest period of time in the hospital you are confined to a wheelchair as you leave the hospital. You are in that wheelchair because the hospital takes their responsibility to protect you from harm literally until the last minute you are on their premises.

The question remains whether this very high standard of care extends to protecting a hospital's patients from criminal acts.

There is no definitive answer to your question. The answer to such a question must be a “maybe”. Each instance of a criminal act perpetrated on a patient must be weighed against the amount of security protection a hospital has in place.

In your case the legal burden of responsibility rests with the hospital. At the time the theft of the wallets occurred did the hospital have in place sufficient security cameras and sufficient security personal on duty? And if they did could they have thwarted the act of theft?

Or did one of the hospital employees steal the wallets while you both were distracted? And if so could the hospital have in some way prevented the theft? Each instance of a criminal act against a patient or visitor must be evaluated on its own merits. Therefore we suggest you weigh and balance the issues we have set out above.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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