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New York Appellate Tribunal Agrees that Summary Judgment Would Be Improper in Failure to Diagnosis Cancer Case

Negligence cases, including Syracuse medical malpractice claims, often come down to one or two basic issues. Did the defendant breach a standard of care owed to the plaintiff? Was this the proximate cause of the harm that he or she complains about in the lawsuit?

Proving fault in professional negligence cases usually involves the testimony of one or more expert witnesses. One or both parties may seek an early resolution of the case through a pre-trial procedure known as “summary judgment,” but this is only appropriate when there are no genuine issues of material fact.

When factual issues must be resolved, the case should go to the jury, rather than be resolved by the judge without the plaintiff having his or her day in court. This is also true when the parties’ respective expert witnesses starkly disagree about the duty that was owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, whether this duty was breached, and/or whether such breach of duty was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who sued several defendant medical providers, alleging that they had been negligent in their treatment of him, insomuch as they had failed to diagnosis him with breast cancer within a reasonable time of his apparent development of such illness. The defendants filed a motion seeking summary judgment on the plaintiff’s claims against them, submitting the opinion of an expert witness in support of their assertion that they did not deviate from good and accepted standards of medical care in their treatment of the plaintiff. The plaintiff, in turn, submitted another expert witness’s affidavit opposing the opinion of the defendants’ expert.

The Supreme Court of Oneida County denied the defendants’ motion.

The Court’s Ruling

The Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department, affirmed the trial court’s denial of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The reviewing court first noted that, in order to effectively argue for summary judgment dismissal of a medical malpractice claim, a defendant in such case had the burden of establishing, prima facie, that his or her treatment of the complaining party was within the bounds of good and accepted care and/or that, if there was a deviation from good medical care, this was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries as set forth in his or her case.

Here, the defendants’ expert gave an opinion on the deviation issue, not the question of causation. In response, the plaintiff’s expert had “squarely opposed” the defense expert’s opinion, creating a “classic battle of the experts” that was best left to the consideration of the jury at trial.

To Get Help with a Syracuse Medical Malpractice Case

If you or a loved one has been hurt by a delayed or inaccurate cancer diagnosis, you should talk to an attorney about your legal rights, including the right to seek financial compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced oncology malpractice attorney, call the law firm of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 315-479-9000. Please be mindful that there are firm deadlines for the filing of such claims and that it takes a considerable amount of investigation and preparation before such a suit can be filed, so it is important to seek counsel sooner rather than later. Claims not timely filed will be dismissed by the court system.

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