Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shannon v. McNulty case brief

Shannon v. McNulty case brief summary
718 A.2d 828 (1998)

Plaintiff husband and wife appealed the decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (Pennsylvania), which denied plaintiffs' motion to remove a compulsory nonsuit in their action for vicarious and corporate liability against defendant health maintenance organization and doctor for medical malpractice for the premature delivery and death of their son.


Plaintiff husband and wife brought an action for medical malpractice against defendant health maintenance organization (HMO) and doctor for negligently failing to timely diagnosis and treat signs of pre-term labor and alleged defendant HMO was vicariously liable for negligence of its nurses for failing to respond to plaintiff wife's complaints and refer her to a physician. The trial court entered a nonsuit in favor of defendant HMO.


  • The court reversed the nonsuit holding that under Pa. R. Civ. P. 230 once the defendants offered evidence in the case a nonsuit could not be entered. 
  • After a harm analysis the court found that the evidence was sufficient to allow the case to go to the jury on the theory of corporate liability against defendant HMO because it had a duty to oversee all persons who practiced medicine within its walls as to patient care. 
  • The court found that the duties of a hospital in regard to corporate liability applied to defendant HMO when it provided health care services. 
  • The court found that there was sufficient evidence that defendant HMO had failed to exercise reasonable care in the rendering of telephone triage services.


The court reversed the nonsuit as to defendant health maintenance organization (HMO), holding that once defendant HMO and defendant doctor offered evidence the trial court could not enter a nonsuit. The court found that defendant HMO could be corporately liable when it assumed the duties of a hospital.

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