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New York Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Medical Malpractice Case Due to Plaintiff’s Failure to Appear at Compliance Conference

Syracuse malpractice cases are never easy. The defendants in these types of case rarely admit that any wrongdoing or negligence occurred; in the unlikely event that a doctor or hospital admits that a mistake was made, the defendant will likely insist that there was no harm caused by the error.

Not surprisingly, a defendant in a medical negligence case will take advantage of every “technicality” that may fall in his or her favor, including the possibility of getting a case dismissed due to an opponent’s failure to appear at a court conference. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get such dismissal reversed, and the plaintiff may very well lose the right to proceed to trial if such a ruling occurs.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case arising in the Supreme Court for Dutchess County, the plaintiff was a woman who sought compensation for the alleged medical malpractice of the defendant healthcare provider. A compliance conference was ordered by the trial court, but the plaintiff failed to appear. Thereafter, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint due to her default pursuant to the provisions of the 22 NYCRR § 202.27. The plaintiff then filed a motion to vacate the trial court’s order and judgment under CPLR § 5015(a)(1), seeking to have her civil action against the defendant restored to active status. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion, and she appealed.

Decision of the Court

The Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department, affirmed the trial court’s order. Under 22 NYCRR § 202.27, if a party fails to appear at a scheduled call of the court’s calendar or at any conference, there can be severe consequences. Under the rule, this includes dismissal of a cause of action if the defendant appears, but the plaintiff does not. While a party aggrieved by a trial court’s actions regarding dismissal may seek relief from the court’s judgment, there is a requirement that such party show both a “reasonable excuse” for his or her default and the existence of a potentially meritorious cause of action.

In the appellate court’s opinion, the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate a reasonable excuse for her default in failing to appear at the conference in question; according to the court, the excuse proffered by the plaintiff was, at best, “undetailed, unsubstantiated, vague, and conclusory.” The court went on to find that the plaintiff’s reason for her failure were more part of an overall pattern of willful default and neglect than an acceptable excuse for not appearing at the conference as directed by the trial court. Insomuch as the plaintiff did not demonstrate that she had a reasonable excuse for missing the conference, the reviewing court found it unnecessary to reach the second prong of the test, i.e. whether the plaintiff had demonstrated the existence of a potentially meritorious claim.

Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorneys Reviewing Claims

If you think that a doctor’s mistake has caused you serious harm, you should talk to a lawyer. At the law offices of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, our team of knowledgeable medical malpractice attorneys offer a free case evaluation so that you can learn more about your legal rights. For an appointment to get started on your case, call 315-479-9000.

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