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Court Discusses Demonstrating Proximate Cause in New York Medical Malpractice Cases

Although doctors have an obligation to provide their patients with competent care, it is not uncommon for a doctor to make mistakes during the treatment of a patient. While medical negligence may provide grounds for pursuing a medical malpractice claim, a careless physician will only be held accountable if their negligence proximately caused a patient to suffer harm. In other words, negligence, in and of itself, does not constitute medical malpractice, as explained in a recent New York ruling. If you suffered harm because of the recklessness of your treatment provider, you have the right to seek compensation, and you should meet with a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff underwent a mastectomy of her right breast in 1998 due to breast cancer. She began to experience breast pain in 2010 and advised her physiatrist of her symptoms. The physiatrist prescribed her an ultrasound, which she underwent; the results were normal. She subsequently underwent an MRI, which revealed a mass in her right breast. The plaintiff intercepted the communication between the physiatrist and the radiologist describing the abnormality.

Allegedly, a second doctor that plaintiff saw referred her to a breast surgeon, who provided her with referrals for additional testing and stressed the urgency of her situation. The plaintiff did not feel comfortable with the surgeon, however, and delayed seeking any additional treatment for one year. When she sought care, she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. She filed a lawsuit against her treatment providers, alleging that their delayed diagnosis worsened her prognosis. The defendant’s moved for summary judgment, and the court ruled in their favor. The plaintiff appealed.

Demonstrating Proximate Cause in Medical Malpractice Cases

The trial court ruling was affirmed on appeal. The court first noted that the conflicting expert affidavits submitted by the parties were sufficient to demonstrate that a triable issue of fact existed with regards to liability. The court explained, however, that the claims against the defendants were properly dismissed because, while there was evidence that could be construed to determine that the defendants acted negligently, there was insufficient cause for a fact finder to come to the conclusion that their negligence caused the plaintiff’s harm.

In other words, the court explained that it was due to the plaintiff’s intervention that the physiatrist lacked knowledge of her abnormal test results, and therefore, even if the physiatrist was negligent in failing to follow up on the results, it was the plaintiff’s delay that proximately caused her harm. Similarly, the court deemed her delays in seeking additional care to be the cause of her delayed diagnosis. Thus, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Capable Medical Malpractice Attorney

Doctors that fail to perform their duties properly often harm their patients, and if they do, they should be deemed liable. If you were hurt by the negligence of your healthcare provider, you could have grounds for pursuing a medical malpractice claim, and it is smart for you to meet with an attorney. The capable Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can reach us through our form online or by calling us at 833-247-8427 to set up a meeting.

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