Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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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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Syracuse medical malpractice lawsuits involving multiple defendants can be complex. The plaintiff’s case against some of the defendants may be stronger or weaker than his or her case against the others, possibly leading to quicker and more effective settlement negotiations against one or more of the health care providers against whom money damages are sought. Just as naming multiple defendants complicates a medical negligence lawsuit, so may the death of the primary plaintiff in such a lawsuit, especially if his or her death allegedly resulted from the acts of malpractice giving rise to the claim.

A recent case explored some of the issues that can arise when the original plaintiff passes away in the middle of a lawsuit involving several medical provider defendants, one of whom had allegedly entered into an arbitration agreement with the original plaintiff prior to his death.

Factual Allegations

In a recent case filed in the Supreme Court of St. Lawrence County in 2015, the original plaintiff was a man who sought monetary compensation for alleged acts of medical malpractice and chiropractic malpractice from multiple medical provider defendants. While the lawsuit was pending, the original plaintiff entered into an arbitration agreement with one particular defendant, and a stipulation of discontinuance was entered as to that defendant. Accordingly, the trial court deleted that defendant from the caption of the complaint.

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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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A Syracuse medical malpractice lawsuit can arise in many different ways. Sometimes, a claim of negligence involves an affirmative act taken by a doctor, such as operating on the wrong limb or leaving behind a piece of medical equipment in a patient’s abdominal cavity. Medical malpractice can also happen when a doctor fails to take a particular action, such as failing to refer a patient to a specialist for further examination and treatment.

Of course, simply failing to make a referral is not, in and of itself, negligence unless some harm befalls the patient as a proximate result. A common complaint in such situations is that the doctor’s failure to advise the patient to follow up with another physician resulted in a delayed diagnosis some type, such as cancer, and that the condition grew worse as a result.

Facts of the Case

In a recently decided case arising in the Supreme Court for Bronx County, the plaintiff was a man who filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor and others, asserting that the doctor had been negligent in not referring him to a urologist in a timely fashion. According to the plaintiff’s view of the case, this negligence created a delay, during which the plaintiff’s prostate cancer became worse, ultimately requiring him to undergo a radical prostatectomy.

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In a New York medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff has the burden of proof. This means that he or she must be able to produce appropriately convincing evidence that the defendant(s) violated the standard of care owed to the plaintiff and that this was the proximate cause of the damages for which the plaintiff seeks monetary compensation. Most medical malpractice lawsuits involve one or more motions for summary judgment – a legal vehicle through which the defendant(s) seeks dismissal of the case prior to trial. Sometimes such motions are granted or denied in their entirety, but the court may opt for a partial granting of summary judgment in some situations.

Facts of the Case

In a court opinion recently issued by the New York Appellate Division, First Department, the plaintiff was a woman who sued the defendants, a hospital and a medical doctor, for medical malpractice, alleging that the doctor had failed to properly interpret her decedent’s echocardiogram during a period beginning in late 2012 and ending in early 2013. The doctor filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims against him and arguing that he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The Supreme Court of New York County denied summary judgment as to the doctor, and he appealed.

The Decision of the Court

The appeals tribunal reversed the lower court’s denial of summary judgment as to any claims of negligence alleged to have occurred prior to December 26, 2012, or after January 21, 2013. The court first noted that the plaintiff’s bill of particulars alleged that the doctor had been negligent in failing to properly interpret a particular echocardiogram on January 18, 2013, which the plaintiff alleged showed a more diluted aorta than seen on a prior echocardiogram taken in August 2011. The plaintiff had further alleged that the defendants’ negligent acts took place “from on or about December 26, 2012, through January 21, 2013, and prior or subsequent thereto.” However, the plaintiff’s expert’s opinion, submitted in opposition to the doctor’s motion for summary judgment, had opined that the doctor was also negligent in his interpretation of the 2011 echocardiogram.

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When a doctor or other healthcare professional makes an error, serious consequences, including personal injury and wrongful death, can occur. In order to assert a claim against an allegedly negligent healthcare provider in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must be prepared to introduce evidence of the standard of care that applied to his or her medical situation, how that standard was allegedly breached, the damages that he or she experienced, and the relationship (or “proximate causation”) between the doctor’s mistake and the harm that befell the plaintiff.

A medical malpractice case can take a long time to resolve, much longer than many other types of personal injury cases, such as those arising from an automobile accident. This can be discouraging for a would-be litigant, even one with a really strong case. Unfortunately, this is often the very intent of malpractice insurance companies and the attorneys who defend careless doctors in court.

If you believe that you have been hurt or may have lost a loved one due to a physician or other medical professional’s failure to follow the acceptable standard of care, you should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner your case is started, the quicker it can be resolved – even if there are delays along the way as the defendants fight a finding of liability.

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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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