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New York Appellate Court Reviews Chiropractic Malpractice Case Involving Multiple Defendants, One of Whom Entered Into an Arbitration Agreement

Syracuse medical malpractice lawsuits involving multiple defendants can be complex. The plaintiff’s case against some of the defendants may be stronger or weaker than his or her case against the others, possibly leading to quicker and more effective settlement negotiations against one or more of the health care providers against whom money damages are sought. Just as naming multiple defendants complicates a medical negligence lawsuit, so may the death of the primary plaintiff in such a lawsuit, especially if his or her death allegedly resulted from the acts of malpractice giving rise to the claim.

A recent case explored some of the issues that can arise when the original plaintiff passes away in the middle of a lawsuit involving several medical provider defendants, one of whom had allegedly entered into an arbitration agreement with the original plaintiff prior to his death.

Factual Allegations

In a recent case filed in the Supreme Court of St. Lawrence County in 2015, the original plaintiff was a man who sought monetary compensation for alleged acts of medical malpractice and chiropractic malpractice from multiple medical provider defendants. While the lawsuit was pending, the original plaintiff entered into an arbitration agreement with one particular defendant, and a stipulation of discontinuance was entered as to that defendant. Accordingly, the trial court deleted that defendant from the caption of the complaint.

After the original plaintiff died in 2016, the administrator of his estate was substituted as the plaintiff. The administrator filed an amended complaint against the remaining defendants, adding a cause of action for the original plaintiff’s wrongful death. One of the remaining original defendants then filed a third-party action against the previously dismissed defendant, seeking contribution and common-law indemnification. The previously dismissed defendant sought summary judgment, relying upon New York General Obligations Law § 15-108. The trial court denied the motion.

Holding of the Reviewing Court

The New York Appellate Division, Third Department, modified the supreme court’s order, thereby reversing the lower tribunal’s denial of the previously dismissed defendant’s motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the common-law indemnification cause of action filed against him in the third-party complaint. The reviewing court otherwise affirmed the lower court’s order.

According to the court, § 15-108 only applies when 1) a plaintiff received certain monetary consideration, and 2) the release or covenant completely or substantially terminated the dispute between the plaintiff and the person who was claimed to be liable. Here, there was no evidence that the original plaintiff received any monetary consideration in exchange for the agreement at issue. Instead, the record established “at most” that the original plaintiff and the previously dismissed defendant agreed to arbitration. Since the record did not indicate whether arbitration had actually been completed, the court could not say that the dispute was “completely or substantially terminated.” Thus, the lower court had correctly denied the motion seeking dismissal of the contribution claim against the previously dismissed defendant.

However, the court went on to opine that the third-party complaint should have been dismissed insofar as it related to a claim for common-law indemnification against the previously dismissed defendant. In the bill of particulars, the administrator had alleged various acts of malpractice by the remaining defendant and had specifically alleged that she was not seeking to hold the defendant who had filed the third-party action vicariously liable for the acts of any other party, including the previously dismissed defendant. Without a claim of vicarious liability for the previously dismissed defendant’s actions, the remaining defendant’s common-law indemnification cause of action failed.

Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorneys Reviewing New Cases

Substantial money damages may be available to those who have been seriously injured by an act of chiropractic malpractice. Additionally, a wrongful death claim may be a viable option for a family who has lost a loved one due to a mistake or error in judgment by a doctor, chiropractor, nurse, hospital, or other health care provider. To learn more about filing a Syracuse chiropractic malpractice lawsuit, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, at 315-479-9000 to set up a free case evaluation. Please be mindful that such cases have strict filing deadlines, so it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

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