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Appellate Tribunal Affirms Summary Judgment in Favor of New York Doctor in Medical Negligence Case

In a Syracuse medical malpractice case, there are many steps between the act of negligence and a settlement or judgment in favor of the patient (or, if the patient died as a result of the malpractice, his or her family). One of the first steps is a review of the patient’s medical records by an expert witness. Under New York law, an expert’s opinion to the effect that the defendant medical provider failed to act in accordance with the acceptable standard of care is required in order for most medical negligence cases to be successful. If such an opinion is not forthcoming once the case proceeds to a certain point in the litigation, it is likely that the matter will be dismissed as to any defendants against whom the requisite expert’s opinion has been submitted.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was the administrator of the estate of a person who allegedly died as a result of the negligence of the defendants, a doctor and patient care facility. The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit, acting both individually and as the administrator of the decedent’s estate, seeking to recover monetary damages for the decedent’s death. The Supreme Court of Bronx County dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint against the doctor after ruling that the doctor was entitled to summary judgment. The plaintiff then appealed the trial court’s decision to a higher tribunal.

The Court’s Decision on the Issues

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the lower court’s decision. In order to be granted summary judgment in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the burden was on the defendant to convince the trial court that there were no genuine issues of material fact; only in the absence of triable factual issues was one party or the other to be granted judgment as a matter of law. Applying this standard to the case at bar, the court found that the plaintiff had failed to produce sufficient evidence for the case against the doctor to proceed to trial.

In so holding, the court noted that the doctor had submitted the opinion of a medical expert to the effect that the doctor was not responsible for the determination of the manner in which the decedent was monitored. The expert further opined that there was no indication warranting the usage of physical restraints insomuch as the decedent’s restlessness was irregular and intermittent and she was alert and oriented during the relevant time. Although the plaintiff submitted the opinion of an opposing expert witness, the plaintiff’s expert failed to raise the issue of whether the doctor had departed from good and accepted standards of medical practice during his treatment of the decedent; rather, in the reviewing court’s view, the opinion of the plaintiff’s expert was “conclusory.”

To Get Advice About a New York Malpractice Case

Proving medical negligence involves many steps. Such cases are typically lengthy and complex, even when a doctor or hospital’s mistake seems simple or obvious. As this case illustrates, a plaintiff’s failure to submit acceptable evidence in opposition to a party’s motion for judgment as a matter of law can result in dismissal of the plaintiff’s case. If you believe that you have been the victim of an act of medical negligence or that you have lost a loved one due to a doctor or hospital’s malpractice, please call the seasoned medical malpractice attorneys at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP to learn more about how we can help you assert your legal rights. You can schedule an appointment by calling 315-479-9000 or by using the contact form on this website.

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