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Court Refuses to Grant Bifurcated Trial in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in New York

Syracuse Medical malpractice cases tend to involve multiple parties and a myriad of legal issues. Typically, all of the patient’s claims are tried in the same trial, complicated though it may be.

Occasionally, however, either the patient or the medical provider may ask that the issues be severed and that separate trials be had. It is unusual for a trial court to grant such a motion, as bifurcated trials are by far the exception rather than the rule.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a New York County Supreme Court case was a former patient of the defendant medical doctor. After the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the doctor setting forth a claim for medical malpractice, the doctor asserted a statute of limitations defense. According to the doctor’s view of the case, the plaintiff had not brought his claim within the limitations period allowed by law, and thus his claim should be dismissed as untimely.

The defendant then filed a motion for severance, asking that the trial court bifurcate the case into two trials: one on his statute of limitations defense and the other on the patient’s substantive medical malpractice claims. The trial court denied the doctor’s motion, and he filed an appeal.

The Outcome in the Appeals Tribunal

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the lower court’s order denying the doctor’s motion to sever his limitations period defense from the plaintiff’s medical negligence claims. Courts favor judicial economy, and thus severance is disfavored in most cases. In order for the court to have granted the doctor’s request to bifurcate the trial, the doctor would have had to show that a single trial would have impacted him such that the need to prevent prejudice would have outweighed the general disfavor for severance. This was especially true in cases in which the issues that a party sought to bifurcate derived from a “common nucleus of facts.”

Alternatively, if the doctor could have convinced the appellate tribunal that a bifurcated trial should be granted as a matter of convenience, the court indicated that it might have considered granting the request. However, as this did not happen in either the court below or on appeal, the court ruled that a single trial would be held and that both the statute of limitations defense and the substantive claim would be tried therein.

Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorneys Offering a Free Consultation

We cannot overstate how important it is to consult an attorney as soon as you suspect that you have been the victim of an act of medical malpractice. While many patients are reluctant to file suit against their doctor or other healthcare provider, the truth is that medical negligence can be extremely costly to patients in terms of lost wages, increased medical costs, and other factors. The insurance companies who insure healthcare practitioners enjoy a generous windfall when the patients of negligent physicians opt not to file a claim when they have been wronged. To learn more about holding a careless Syracuse doctor, nurse, or hospital liable for an act of medical negligence, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 833-247-8427 and ask for a free consultation.

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