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Denial of Summary Judgment on Continuing Treatment Exception Affirmed on Appeal by New York Court

In some Syracuse medical malpractice cases, there is but a single defendant. This could be a family doctor who ignored a patient’s symptoms of a life-threatening emergency medical condition, resulting in the patient’s death, or it could be a surgeon who negligently left medical instruments inside a patient’s body, resulting in serious bodily injury.

In most cases, however, there are multiple defendants. Sometimes these defendants are connected, such as an emergency room doctor and the hospital at which he or she provided care.

There are also cases in which the various defendants’ were not connected, except in the sense that they each provided care to the same patient. These factors can complicate matters such as the statute of limitations and whether the continuous treatment doctrine has been established if the complaint was filed beyond the ordinary deadline and an exception is sought.

Facts of the Case

In a medical malpractice case filed in the Supreme Court of Broome County and later appealed, the plaintiff was the executor of the estate of a man who was treated by multiple medical providers, beginning in January 2012 when he was seen at the defendant hospital by the defendant radiologist. The decedent was also seen thereafter by the defendant primary care provider. Despite these defendants’ assurances that a nodule in his lung was likely benign, the decedent eventually sought the opinion of a pulmonologist, who diagnosed the mass as lung cancer in September 2012. The decedent underwent a lobectomy and chemotherapy but ultimately died of cancer in January 2015 after his lung cancer metastasized to his brain.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court denied the defendants’ motion but ruled that, if the continuous treatment doctrine was found to be inapplicable as the case developed moving forward, then any claims against the radiologist and the medical center arising after a certain date in July 2012 would be dismissed.

The Opinion of the Appeals Tribunal

The New York Appellate Division, Third Department, affirmed the lower court’s decision, agreeing with the lower court that the plaintiff had met her burden of establishing that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding the application of the continuous treatment doctrine, which, if applicable, could potentially serve to extend the statute of limitations period for the filing of a complaint against some of the defendants who treated the decedent earlier on.

In so holding, the court found that a particular expert was qualified to offer an opinion on the standards that applied to a primary care physician and that the expert had laid a sufficient foundation to render his opinion reliable. In the court’s view, the difference in specialty between the expert and a particular defendant might affect the weight of his or her testimony as assessed by the jury, but it did not affect its admissibility in the case at bar.

To Get Advice About a Syracuse Medical Malpractice Claim

Just like emergency room doctors and specialists, primary care and family practice physicians can make mistakes. Unfortunately, sometimes those mistakes can cost a patient his or her life. If you believe that your family doctor has made a mistake that has hurt you or a loved one, you should talk to a lawyer. For a free consultation about your case, please contact DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 833-247-8427. If you prefer, you can use the “contact us” portion of this website. Please be mindful of the statute of limitations, which establishes a finite time period for the filing of medical negligence cases against allegedly negligent healthcare providers.

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