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In Medical Malpractice Case Arising from Pelvic Surgery, New York Appellate Court Says Summary Judgment to Defendants Was Proper

In a New York medical malpractice lawsuit, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove four separate and distinct elements: that the defendant healthcare provider owed a certain standard of care to the plaintiff patient, that this duty was breached, that the plaintiff suffered damages, and that the defendant’s breach of the duty of care was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages.

The plaintiff must provide expert testimony as to each of these elements. In the absence of such proof, the plaintiff’s case will fail, and judgment will be entered for the defendant.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant medical providers, claiming that she had suffered personal injuries due to the defendants’ negligence in performing pelvic surgery. In response, the defendants submitted evidence that they alleged showed that the plaintiff’s injury was due to a known risk that could occur even with competent surgical care. The Supreme Court of New York County granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, thereby dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint.

Decision of the Court

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the lower tribunal’s order granting the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. According to the court on appeal, the defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law because they had submitted evidence showing that the plaintiff’s injury was not the result of a departure from the accepted standard of medical practice.

In so holding, the court noted that the plaintiff’s evidence was speculative and conclusory; because her evidence was insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the defendants had departed from the applicable standard of care, the reviewing court found that it was proper for the trial court to rule in favor of the defendants on their summary judgment motion. The court noted that the plaintiff’s injury, in and of itself, was not a basis upon which to conclude that a departure from the standard of care occurred.

Unfortunately for the plaintiff, this meant that she was unable to recover money damages from the defendants, even though the parties apparently agreed that she had suffered an injury during her surgery. Because the injury was of such a nature that the defendants’ expert witness opined that it could have happened even if the defendants performed the surgery within the applicable standard of care, the plaintiff was not entitled to a judgment in favor on her medical malpractice claim. Had the plaintiff been able to offer the opinion of an expert witness who disagreed with the defendants’ expert, perhaps the result would have been different.

Seasoned Syracuse Medical Negligence Attorneys

Getting a prompt start on a medical negligence claim is very important if a patient’s case is to be successful. These types of lawsuits demand hard work, perseverance, and attention to detail. At the Syracuse medical malpractice firm of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, our attorneys are prepared to assist with many different types of medical negligence lawsuits against physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers. For a free consultation to learn more about our services, call us now at 315-479-9000.

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