Infection Control for Dentists Part 7 – Things You May NOT Have Known…
Will a Corporation Shield a Dentist from Personal Liability?
If you are have a professional corporation, are you PERSONALLY shielded from negligence claims based on failing to adhere to infection prevention and control protocols and standards? NOPE. Why not? Because Section 3.4(1) of Ontario’s Business Corporations Act says that there no limits on the professional liability of a shareholder of a professional corporation (i.e. the principal dentist) with respect to the acts of that shareholder or the acts of employees or agents of that corporation. Indeed, section 3.4(3) says that the professional liability of a dentist is not affected by the fact that they’re practicing through a professional corporation.
Will a Dentist be Liable for the Actions / Omissions of their Staff?
Vicarious liability is a common law (judge made law) doctrine that says that an employer is liable for the negligent acts and omissions of their employee. Courts have held that employers are vicariously liable for both employee acts AUTHORIZED by the employer AND UNAUTHORIZED acts so connected with authorized acts that they may be regarded as modes of doing authorized acts. What matters is whether the alleged negligence involves the element of control and whether the person committing the tort was at all material times under the supervision and control of the employer. It won’t matter if the person is an employee or independent contractor for the employer / client to be found vicariously liable. Where the person is an employee, then the employer may be liable in negligence for inadequately supervising them or substandard hiring or training practices.
Furthermore, section 3.4(2) of the Business Corporations Act says that, for the purposes of professional liability, the acts of a professional corporation shall be deemed to be the acts of the shareholders, employees or agents of the corporation. On top of that, Section 3.4(4) says that a person will be jointly and severally liable with a professional corporation for all professional liability claims made against the corporation if that person was a shareholder of that corporation when the errors and omissions were made / occurred.
What About PLP?
Dentists’ Professional Liability Program will cover a member who runs into issues with infection control as it is part of the practice of dentistry. It would be considered part of each member’s $2-million protection. An example of this would be if a patient sued, alleging they caught an infection as a result of the dentist / practice failing to adhere to proper infection prevention and control protocols and standards.
PLP will even cover vicarious liability. Per their website, “Dentists and their health professions corporations are also entitled to assistance when they are sued for vicarious liability, i.e. for acts and omissions of their employees in rendering professional services on or behalf of members or their HPCs.”