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Charity Doctors Open to Malpractice, Says Virginia Supreme Court

Posted on Mar 01, 2008

The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that doctors who work in charitable foundations are not immune from malpractice suits.

The cases ruled upon by the Virginia Supreme Court involved the University of Virginia Health Services Foundation, who wanted immunity from malpractice suits.  The Foundation’s lawyers claimed that because its physicians were working for a nonprofit organization, they should be protected from malpractice lawsuits.

However the Virginia Supreme Court refused to rule in favor of the Health Services Foundation, saying that while the physicians working for the foundation did perform “commendable” charity care for its patients, the majority of the foundation’s services were not charitable.

The court said, “HSF operates like a profitable commercial business with extensive revenue and assets… HSF is therefore not immune from tort liability under the doctrine of charitable immunity.”

According to the court’s 28-page opinion, the Virginia Supreme Court found that the University of Virginia Foundation "operates more like a for-profit business than a charitable organization."

The court concluded that of the foundation's $225 million in annual income in 2005, charitable work made up less than one per cent.

Another college that will be affected by the ruling is Eastern Virginia Medical School, which also has a nonprofit physicians group called the Academic and Physicians and Surgeons Health Services Foundation affiliated with it.

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