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Malpractice Lawsuit Filed by Doctor’s Family Can Proceed Against Dialysis Center, Says New York Appeals Court

A Syracuse medical malpractice case can affect many different types of people and their families.

Even a medical doctor can be the victim of an act of medical negligence, when that doctor is a patient relying upon the advice of others.

Of course, in such a case, it is likely that those accused of malpractice will try to turn the blame around on the victim – even if the defendants’ alleged negligence cost the victim his life.

Facts of the Case

In a recent medical negligence case being reviewed on appeal, the plaintiffs were relatives of a man who collapsed and went into respiratory arrest as an apparent result of a delay in his dialysis treatment. The man (who was himself a doctor) died five days later due to hyperkalemia and pulmonary edema. The plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against several defendants, including a nephrologist and a dialysis center (as well as its management company and related corporate defendants).

The Supreme Court of Queens County granted summary judgment to the defendants, and the plaintiffs appealed.

Outcome of the Case

The Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, modified the lower court’s order, deleting the provision granting summary judgment to the dialysis center (and related defendants) and substituting therefore a provision denying the motion of these defendants. The court first noted that, in order to prevail on a summary judgment motion, the defendant in a medical malpractice case has the burden of showing that either there was no deviation from acceptable medical practice or that any such deviation was not the proximate cause of a patient’s injuries or death. Once this occurs, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff(s) to show that there is a triable issue of fact in the case.

In reviewing the case on appeal, the appellate court found that the nephrologist had met his burden of proof through the submission of a medical expert’s opinion that he had acted within accepted standards of care by diagnosing a problem with the decedent’s catheter and proposing several reasonable treatment options. The plaintiffs failing to raise a triable issue as this defendant, the court held that he was entitled to summary judgment.

With regard to the dialysis center and related defendants, however, the court reached a different conclusion. According to the court, these defendants’ expert witness failed to address the plaintiffs’ allegations that one of these defendants’ employees affirmatively represented to the decedent that he could safely wait until the next day to have his hemodialysis treatment. In so holding, the court opined that the defendants’ argument that, because the decedent was a physician, he was fully aware of the medical risks of delaying his treatment, was “conclusory and speculative” and thus insufficient to support the defendants’ request for summary judgment.

To Schedule a Consultation Regarding a Syracuse Malpractice Case

Medical malpractice lawsuits are frequently met with strong resistance. Doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare professionals are rarely willing admit that they made a mistake, and they (and their insurance companies) will fight hard against a finding of liability. If you have been hurt by a doctor or other medical professional’s act of negligence, you need an experienced and aggressive Syracuse medical malpractice attorney fighting for your legal rights every step of the way. To schedule a free consultation about your claim, please call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, today at 315-479-9000. Please be prompt in seeking legal advice concerning any personal injury or wrongful death claim, as the statute of limitations requires that such matters be pursued within a fixed amount of time.


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