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New York Court Affirms Summary Judgment to Doctors in Medical Malpractice Case Arising from Patient’s Death Due to Pulmonary Embolism

A doctor or healthcare provider’s failure to diagnose and/or properly treat a pulmonary embolism can result in a Syracuse surgical malpractice claim. Potentially life-threatening, a pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot (usually from another part of the body) blocks one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs.

A pulmonary embolism can result in shortness of breath, chest pain, and cough; less common symptoms include irregular heartbeat, dizziness, sweating, swelling, and fever. If not promptly diagnosed or properly treated, a pulmonary embolism can cause serious injury or even death in some patients. Because surgery is one of the main causes of blood clots that result in pulmonary embolism, it is especially important that surgeons take measures to prevent, recognize, and/or treat such conditions in their patients.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recently decided case arising in the Supreme Court of New York County was the administratrix of a 49-year-old woman who died from a pulmonary embolism that was allegedly caused by bilateral deep vein thromboses in her legs. According to the plaintiff’s complaint against the defendants (a family medicine physician, a cardiologist, and others), the decedent’s condition developed after she underwent a two-day back surgery. Both the family medicine physician and the cardiologist consulted on the decedent’s care. They also allegedly reviewed certain electrocardiograms that showed T wave inversions. In the plaintiff’s view, the defendants deviated from good and accepted standards of medicine by failing to order additional testing in order to determine the cause of the decedent’s T wave inversion.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The trial court agreed and granted the defendants’ motion. The plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Tribunal’s Decision

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the lower tribunal’s order granting summary judgment to the defendants. According to the court, the defendants had demonstrated their prima facie entitlement to summary judgment by submitting evidence to the effect that they had continuously monitored the plaintiffs electrocardiograms, that the T wave inversions were not indicative of a pulmonary embolism or deep vein thromboses, and that the decedent showed no physical symptoms of deep vein thromboses during their repeated examinations of her.

In response, the plaintiff had submitted an expert’s general and conclusory assertion that abnormal electrocardiogram findings should raise a suspicion of a pulmonary embolism, such that further testing was indicated. In the reviewing court’s view, the opinion of the plaintiff’s expert was limited to general and conclusory assertions regarding the significance of the plaintiff’s allegedly abnormal electrocardiogram findings and did not defeat the defendants’ motion for judgment as a matter of law. The reviewing court also noted that the plaintiff’s expert had admitted that the decedent did not exhibit any of the “classic symptoms” of either deep vein thromboses or pulmonary embolism.

If You Need to Talk to a Syracuse Malpractice Attorney

Medical mistakes can happen during many types of procedures, including during and after back surgery. If you have questions about a possible Syracuse surgical malpractice claim, please call the attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, at 315-479-9000 and set up a consultation at your earliest convenience. Under New York law, a medical negligence claimant has only a limited time in which to file a complaint in a court of law; it this is not done, the claimant’s rights to see fair compensation for personal injury or a loved one’s wrongful death are barred in most cases.

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