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Internal Medicine Physician Should Have Been Granted Summary Judgment in Medical Malpractice Case, Says New York Appellate Court

Not every physician or healthcare provider is held to the same standard of care. For instance, in a Syracuse medical malpractice case, a doctor specializing in internal medicine is not necessarily expected to have the same knowledge or skill as one who works primarily in the field of physical therapy.

Thus, if a patient who is treated by both professionals is injured by an act of negligence, it is quite possible that a medical malpractice case will only reach trial as to one of the healthcare workers. It often comes down to a question of which specialist was responsible for the area of the body or the type of care that led to the harm about which the plaintiff complains.

Of course, there are some circumstances in which several different medical professionals could be potentially liable to a patient. Each case is unique and must be determined on its own particular facts.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a medical malpractice case filed in the Supreme Court of Suffolk County was a woman who underwent corrective surgery after fracturing her right femur in 2013. After her right knee allegedly became stiff and impossible to bend, the plaintiff filed suit against several healthcare providers, including an internal medicine physician who treated her while she was at a nursing and rehabilitation center following her injury. The physician filed a motion for summary judgment, but the motion was denied by the trial court. The physician filed an appeal, seeking further review.

The Case on Appeal

The matter was considered on appeal by the New York Appellate Division, Second Department, earlier this year. In November, the court released an opinion reversing the lower tribunal’s order denying the physician’s motion to dismiss the case on summary judgment as to him. The court began by explaining that a doctor or other healthcare professional can only be held liable for medical malpractice upon a showing that he or she departed from good and accepted medical practice during his or her treatment of a particular patient.

Here, the physician established, via deposition testimony, that he was trained in internal medicine – not orthopedics – and served only as the plaintiff’s internist while she was at the rehabilitation center. He further established that he was not involved in the patient’s physical therapy, nor was he an occupational therapist. The physician also established, through an expert witness’s opinion, that his training as an internist did not encompass the skills or knowledge required to determine a patient’s physical therapy needs.

Insomuch as the physician was able to show that he treated the patient within the accepted standards of practice in internal medicine at all relevant times and had no duty to evaluate the efficacy of her physical and occupational therapy during his treatment of her, there was no triable issue of fact as to him, and he should have been granted summary judgment by the trial court.

Seek Counsel Concerning a Medical Negligence Case

If you believe that you have a potential orthopedic malpractice case, you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible. There is a firm statute of limitations for medical negligence claims, and failure to file suit before the deadline will result in dismissal of your case in most instances. The attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP can be reached for an appointment at 315-479-9000 or through the “contact us” section of this website. There is no attorney fee for the consultation, and most cases are handled on a contingency fee contract.

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