ostensible agent

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The “ostensible agent” is one where the principal has intentionally or inadvertently induced third persons to believe that such person was its agent although no actual or express authority was conferred on him as agent. For example, an independent contractor physician can be “ostensible agent” of hospital if patient looks to hospital for care and not individual physician, and hospital holds physician out as its employee; ostensible agency is typically found in emergency room setting, where patient goes to emergency room of hospital for services and accepts them from whichever physician is assigned to her case.  Even if an employer hires an independent contractor, the employer can be responsible for the actions of that contractor.  This is known as “ostensible agency,” or “apparent authority.” When an employer does something to suggest that the independent contractor actually works for him, or fails to correct this assumption, it can be held liable for the independent contractor’s actions.

[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]