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Articles Posted in Hospital Negligence

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Syracuse medical malpractice lawsuits often come down to a “battle of the experts.” Sometimes this happens during the pre-trial phase, in which the parties submit their respective expert witnesses’ statements in support of, or in opposition to, a motion by the defendant(s) for judgment as a matter of law. Unless the plaintiff’s expert opinion is such that it can effectively refute the defendant’s motion and the defendant’s evidence in support thereof, the plaintiff’s case may end before it reaches the trial phase.

In other situations, the case proceeds to a jury trial, and multiple experts testify. Each will likely offer a different opinion, and it will be up to the jury to resolve any conflicts in the testimony of these witnesses. If you believe that you have a claim for medical malpractice against a doctor or other health care provider, you should talk to an attorney who can assist you in the process of finding an appropriate expert witness to review your medical records and, if necessary, testify at trial.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in a recent medical malpractice case arising in the Supreme Court of Kings County were the statutory wrongful death claimants of a 51-year-old man who died after being treated by the defendant medical providers several times over a multi-day period in 2009. The man had suffered with high blood pressure since his teens but had stopped taking his medication for hypertension about 6 months prior to his treatment by the defendants. When he first presented to the emergency room, he complained of a mild cough, chest pain, fever, chills, and malaise.  He was admitted to the hospital and released three days later, returned the same day that he was released only to return the next day, and died about a week later after having experienced both a stroke and a heart attack.

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In most Syracuse medical malpractice cases, one or more healthcare provider defendants will file what is known as a “motion for summary judgment.” This procedural device may sound harmless enough, but it is often deadly to the plaintiff’s pursuit of fair compensation for an act of medical negligence.

Summary judgment can effectively end a plaintiff’s case as to certain defendants, certain claims, or in its entirety. When a trial court grants such a motion, the court is basically telling the plaintiff that, even if everything he or she says is true, there is no genuine issue of material fact in his or her case and the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fortunately, there is an appellate process for reviewing a trial court’s granting of summary judgment. Many such appeals are successful, giving the plaintiff’s a second chance to have his or her case proceed to a trial on the merits.

Facts of the Case

In a case arising in the Supreme Court of Erie County, the plaintiff was the administratrix of the estate of a man who died from acute respiratory failure following a hypoxic brain injury that occurred as a result of an emergency tracheostomy that was performed when the man returned to the defendant medical center after he had been dismissed earlier in the day when the defendant anesthesiologist and a nurse (who was employed by the medical center) failed in their attempts to intubate the man in preparation for surgery on his shoulder.

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Sometimes a doctor or other medical provider will attempt to avoid a finding of liability in a Syracuse medical malpractice lawsuit by claiming that he or she did not exercise any independent medical judgment in the care and treatment of the patient. If a physician was truly just passing through the operating room at the time of the medical negligence, perhaps this is a justifiable defense. However, this argument is often revealed as less than truthful, once the facts begin to present themselves.

If the patient can establish that a doctor-patient relationship existed between the parties and that and the defendant doctor’s breach of the applicable standard of care was the proximate cause of the harm for which he or she seeks compensation, the patient may be entitle to payment for damages caused by the doctor’s negligent treatment or care.

The Facts of the Case

In a case appealed to the New York Appellate Division, Fourth Department the plaintiff was a mother who sought a monetary judgment for injuries that her daughter suffered when the defendant doctor allegedly failed to address certain postsurgery complications in a manner that was timely and appropriate. According to the plaintiff, the defendant’s treatment of her daughter had fallen below the applicable standard of care and this was a contributing factor for injuries for which she sought money damages.

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Most medical procedures come with some degree of risk. Patients are supposed to be informed of both the potential risks and benefits of a given procedure prior to giving their consent. When a physician fails to obtain informed consent, or if the doctor deviates from the standard of care and injures the patient by his or her mistake, a Syracuse medical malpractice claim may be possible against the negligent medical provider. Like other types of medical negligence cases, surgical malpractice cases usually require expert testimony in order to establish several elements, including the standard of care that the doctor should have followed and whether any deviation from this standard was the proximate cause of harm to the patient.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case considered on appeal by the New York Appellate Division, First Department, the plaintiff was a woman who alleged that she had suffered an injury to her brachial plexus as a result of an interscalene nerve block, which she underwent prior to having arthroscopic surgery on her shoulder. She filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in the Supreme Court of New York County, seeking monetary compensation from several defendants, including the anesthesiologist who performed the nerve block, an anesthesiology fellow, a medical center, and the physician who performed the plaintiff’s shoulder surgery. The trial court granted summary judgment to the anesthesiologist, the anesthesiology fellow, and the medical center, prompting the plaintiff to seek appellate review.

Outcome of the Appeal

The appellate court modified the lower court’s decision to vacate the dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint against the anesthesiologist and the medical center, thereby reinstating the medical malpractice and lack of informed consent claims against the anesthesiologist and the vicarious liability claim against the medical center (based on the doctrine of ostensible agency). According to the reviewing court, the lower tribunal had been wrong in granting summary judgment to the anesthesiologist because the plaintiff’s expert affidavits raised issues of fact on the issues of the defendants’ alleged deviation from the standard of care and causation.

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Generally speaking, a claim for medical malpractice must be filed within two and one-half years (30 months) of an alleged act of medical negligence in the state of New York. While some circumstances can operate to lengthen the time for filing a claim, other circumstances can shorten the period substantially. For instance, if the defendant in a proposed Syracuse birth injury lawsuit is a governmental entity, the plaintiff may have as little as 90 days in which to file a notice of claim (a condition precedent to the filing of a lawsuit against certain government entities, including those who own or operate hospitals).

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the petitioner was an infant, proceeding through his mother and natural guardian, who sought to assert a medical malpractice claim against the respondent city hospital corporation (a public entity). Although the infant was discharged from the hospital shortly after his birth in April 2013, he did not file a motion for leave to serve a late notice of claim until May 2016 – more than three years after the alleged act of medical negligence. The Supreme Court of New York County denied the petitioner’s motion for leave to serve a late notice of claim, and he appealed.

The Court’s Decision

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the lower court’s order denying the relief sought by the petitioner. According to the court, both the infant and his mother received pre- and post-natal care at the respondent’s hospital in 2013. In the reviewing court’s opinion, any medical malpractice claim that the petitioner might have had against the respondent accrued upon the petitioner’s discharge from the hospital; thus the applicable claims period began to run more than three years prior to the filing of the petitioner’s motion for leave to serve a late notice of claim.

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In a lawsuit arising from an alleged act of medical malpractice, a Syracuse medical malpractice plaintiff may seek reasonable compensation for several different types of damages. Two of the most common types of damages are medical expenses and lost earning capacity caused by the act(s) of medical negligence.

Money damages may also be awarded for pain and suffering in some cases. Of course, in order for this to happen, there must be  proof that the victim was aware of his or her suffering, at least on some level. While it is not necessary to show that he or she was fully “awake” and completely aware of everything that was happening at the time in question, there must be some evidence of awareness of his or her pain during the relevant time. Whether or not this was so in a certain case can be a point of much contention.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case arising in the Supreme Court of New York County, the plaintiff was a woman who sought monetary compensation for the death of a medical patient who died after having been treated by the defendants, two hospitals and several other medical providers. Two of the defendants sought summary judgment on the issue of the plaintiff’s conscious pain and suffering claim, arguing that there were no genuine issues of material fact as to whether the decedent was cognitively aware during the time that she was admitted to those defendants’ medical facilities.

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Doctors and hospitals make mistakes, just like other individuals and institutions. Sometimes an act of negligence involves the timing of treatment more than the actual procedure or diagnosis. The hospital or physician may have, eventually, done the right thing, but the delay may have caused a patient to suffer unnecessarily or it may have made his or her condition worse than it would have other been. When this happens, the injured patient has a right to seek monetary compensation with the assistance of a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer to help offset the additional medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the act of malpractice.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case considered on appeal by the New York Appellate Division, First Department,  the plaintiff was an infant who, through his mother and natural guardian, brought suit against the defendant hospital in the Supreme Court of Bronx County, seeking monetary compensation for personal injuries he allegedly sustained due to the defendant’s delay in surgically intervening to treat a medical condition that allegedly developed after the infant suffered a gunshot in his right leg. According to the plaintiff’s view of the case, the defendant should have acted quicker in treating the infant’s compartment syndrome (the building of excessive pressure inside an enclosed muscular space, usually caused from bleeding or swelling brought on by an acute injury).

The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the plaintiff had failed to present a triable issue of fact. The trial court ruled in the defendant’s favor on the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

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In a Syracuse medical malpractice case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving his or case by a preponderance of the evidence. Often, a defendant (doctor, hospital, or other medical provider) will attempt to circumvent the usual trial practice by filing what is known as a summary judgment motion. Such a motion is granted when the court finds that there is no triable issue of fact.

When a court grants such a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff’s case may be dismissed in part or even in its entirety. Thus, it is important that the plaintiff be able to offer sufficient proof of his or her claim in opposition to the motion. Consulting an experienced medical malpractice attorney early on in the process is essential to securing the necessary evidence of negligence to survive a motion for summary judgment and, ultimately, the prevail at trial.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants, a medical center, a doctor, and others, asserting claims for medical malpractice, lack of informed consent, and the wrongful death of their decedent, a man who allegedly died from complications of gallbladder removal surgery. One of the doctors filed a motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court for Kings County denied the motion, and the defendant doctor appealed.

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A Syracuse medical malpractice case may involve allegations against multiple defendants – a hospital, one or more doctors, and possibly other healthcare providers, as well. Generally speaking, the more defendants there are in a case, the more expensive and time-consuming the litigation is likely to be. For this reason, a plaintiff may opt to dismiss his or her claims against one or more defendants and proceed against those remaining.

In some cases, the defendants themselves may oppose such a measure and may file a cross claim aimed at keeping a co-defendant actively engaged in the lawsuit so as to have the option of shifting – or at least sharing – liability and blame if the case proceeds to trial.

Facts of the Case

A recent appellate case originating in the Supreme Court of Westchester County, the plaintiffs sought to assert a medical malpractice claim against a doctor and medical center following the death of their decedent from a stroke. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the doctor (who was an emergency room attending physician at the medical center) negligently failed to recognize the symptoms of a stroke, thereby contributing to the decedent’s death. Four years after filing their suit, the plaintiffs signed a stipulation to discontinue their cause of action against the defendant doctor. However, the medical center did not agree to the stipulation and sought to amend its answer to add a cross claim against the doctor for indemnification and contribution. The doctor, in turn, amended his answer to assert similar cross claims against the medical center.

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In any Syracuse medical malpractice case, time is of the essence. When a claim is not filed within the time allowed by law, it is very difficult – and often impossible – to proceed with what might otherwise have been a good case. This is unfortunate, as the plaintiff’s suffering goes uncompensated and the defendant gets away with poor treatment of a patient.

The exact time during which a claim can be made can vary significantly from case to case, with some situations calling for action to be taken within a very short time (especially if a governmental entity may be liable or if a defective product caused harm to a user).

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was the guardian ad litem for a paranoid schizophrenic adult male patient who claimed that an employee of the defendant hospital had “beat [him] up” when he was an in-patient there in 2009, causing him to lose consciousness and sustain injuries to his eye that required surgery and resulted in loss of vision. Somewhat in contrast to the patient’s testimony, the plaintiff’s complaint asserted that the patient had been “physically taken down, restrained, and controlled… in a negligent manner,” thereby causing his injuries; according to the plaintiff, the defendant was liable for the actions of its employees under a theory of respondeat superior.

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