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New York Appellate Court Reverses Summary Judgment to Medical Provider in Patient’s Malpractice Lawsuit

In a Syracuse medical malpractice case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that he or she suffered personal injury as a proximate result of the defendant’s negligence.

Medical negligence cases are often filed against doctors, but they may also be filed against other healthcare providers, including hospitals and other facilities.

It is not unusual for the defendant in a medical negligence case to file what is called a “motion for summary judgment” in an attempt to have the trial court dismiss the claim against it on the basis that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. If a trial court grants summary judgment to the defendant, the plaintiff has the option of asking the appellate court to review that decision.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case arising in the Supreme Court of Onondaga County, New York, the plaintiff was a former patient of the defendant medical providers (the woman’s husband was also a named plaintiff, possibly asserting a claim for loss of spousal consortium). The plaintiffs’ medical malpractice action arose as a result of a surgical procedure that the plaintiffs alleged resulted in personal injuries to the patient.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department reversed the lower court’s ruling, holding that it had been error for the lower tribunal to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint on summary judgment. In so holding, the court found that, even if the defendants had met their initial burden on the motion, the plaintiffs had raised triable issues of fact through the filing of a medical expert’s affidavit in opposition to the defendants’ motion. According to the court, the affidavit of the plaintiffs’ medical expert squarely opposed the affirmation of the expert witness relied upon by the defendants, thus resulting in a “classic battle of the experts.” In the court’s opinion, these issues were thus to be left to the jury for a resolution.

Summary judgment can be a useful tool for identifying the issues that fall within the purview of the jury at trial, but defendants in medical malpractice cases are sometimes known to use such motions more as a “sword” than a “shield,” attempting to have a plaintiff’s entire case dismissed rather than to narrow down the triable issues. Fortunately, the appellate court in this case reversed the lower court’s order granting summary judgment, thus increasing the chances that that the plaintiffs will eventually have their day in court.

Experienced Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorneys

A doctor or hospital’s negligence may result in serious, debilitation injuries and even wrongful death to a patient. If your family has been impacted by an act of medical negligence, please call the experienced Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, at 315-479-9000 and ask for a free consultation. There is no attorney fee due unless we recover money damages on your behalf at trial or through settlement negotiations. Please be mindful that there is a limited time for filing a medical malpractice claim in the state of New York, and claims not filed within the statute of limitations are subject to dismissal.

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