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New York Appellate Division Affirms Large Verdict in Birth Injury Medical Malpractice Case

A patient can be the victim of medical negligence at any time in his or her life. Sometimes, nursing homes fail to meet the standard of care, and an elderly patient suffers as a result. At the other end of the spectrum, some Syracuse medical malpractice cases happen much earlier: during birth.

When a baby is harmed during labor and delivery, he or she may literally face a lifetime of medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, and other issues. If these expenses are the result of a medical provider’s mistake, it is only fair that the provider contribute to the payment of such damages.

The amount of fair compensation that is due under such circumstances can be a matter of much contention. After a jury has made an award, it is not unusual for there to be an adjustment of the verdict by the trial court and/or the appellate tribunal if the amount awarded was not in line with the evidence presented at trial. Sometimes, the damages award is set aside, and a new trial is ordered.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case appealed from the Supreme Court of Queens County, the plaintiff sought compensation for injuries to an infant that allegedly occurred during labor and delivery. The case was litigated all the way to a jury trial and resulted in a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor on the issue of liability. The jury also awarded substantial damages to the plaintiff, including $10 million for future pain and suffering and payment of future economic damages for 90 years.

The defendant medical providers filed a motion pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. 4404(a), seeking to set aside the jury’s verdict on the issues of liability and damages and/or order a new trial on the issue of damages unless the plaintiff agreed to reduce the verdict. The trial court entered a remittitur but otherwise denied the relief sought by the defendants. The defendants appealed.

The Decision of the Court on Appeal

The New York Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, affirmed. Although the defendants argued that the jury’s verdict on liability was unsupported by the evidence, the reviewing court disagreed. In the court’s opinion, the case largely hinged on the jury’s determination of which expert witness’s opinion was entitled to the greater weight; this decision was entitled to great weight because it was, after all, the jury members – not the appellate court judges – who had the opportunity to see and hear the experts as they gave their testimony at trial.

The defendants also argued that the damages award was excessive, but the reviewing court held that the reduced amount stipulated to by the plaintiff (which included funds for private education, as well as certain other future economic damages) was within the range of reasonable compensation.

Speak to an Attorney About a Malpractice Case

You might think that, with all of the advances in modern medicine, birth injury claims would be very rare. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Doctors can and do still make mistakes, some with devastating consequences on a brand new family. If you have questions about holding a negligence obstetrician, pediatrician, or physician accountable for harm incurred during the birth process, please contact DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP for an appointment by calling 315-479-9000. Remember that the time for filing a malpractice claim is limited, and late-filed claims are usually dismissed by the courts.

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