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New York Appellate Court Reverses Summary Judgment Granted to Medical Providers on Claim Regarding Vegetative Patient’s Conscious Pain and Suffering

In a lawsuit arising from an alleged act of medical malpractice, a Syracuse medical malpractice plaintiff may seek reasonable compensation for several different types of damages. Two of the most common types of damages are medical expenses and lost earning capacity caused by the act(s) of medical negligence.

Money damages may also be awarded for pain and suffering in some cases. Of course, in order for this to happen, there must be  proof that the victim was aware of his or her suffering, at least on some level. While it is not necessary to show that he or she was fully “awake” and completely aware of everything that was happening at the time in question, there must be some evidence of awareness of his or her pain during the relevant time. Whether or not this was so in a certain case can be a point of much contention.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case arising in the Supreme Court of New York County, the plaintiff was a woman who sought monetary compensation for the death of a medical patient who died after having been treated by the defendants, two hospitals and several other medical providers. Two of the defendants sought summary judgment on the issue of the plaintiff’s conscious pain and suffering claim, arguing that there were no genuine issues of material fact as to whether the decedent was cognitively aware during the time that she was admitted to those defendants’ medical facilities.

The trial court granted the defendants’ motions, thereby awarding them judgment as a matter of law as to the plaintiff’s conscious pain and suffering claims.

The Court’s Decision

The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, reversed the lower court’s order granting summary judgment to the defendants on the plaintiff’s conscious pain and suffering claims against them. Although the defendants’ expert witnesses were of the opinion that the decedent did not have the cognitive awareness or ability to experience conscious pain during the relevant periods, the court pointed out that, even though she was in a “vegetative state,” the decedent was generally responsive to pain and sometimes followed commands or responded to verbal stimuli.

Additionally, the plaintiff testified that the decedent was able to make expressions of pain, such as groaning or crying. The court also noted that the decedent’s medical records indicated that she was administered pain medication in at least one defendant’s facilities; while the court did not find this dispositive in and of itself, the reviewing court found that it at least suggested that the decedent’s doctors believed that she might be able to experience pain.

To Speak to a Lawyer About a Syracuse Malpractice Case

At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, our experienced Syracuse medical negligence attorneys work hard to prove each and every element of damages for which an injured party may be entitled to compensation. If you have been hurt by a careless doctor or lost a loved one due to a healthcare practitioner’s failure to abide the applicable standard of care, you may be entitled to substantial money damages. To learn more about the process of seeking payment for what you have been through, please call us at 833-200-2000. If necessary, we can come to your home or hospital room to discuss your case.

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