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New York Court Denies Plaintiff’s Request to Vacate Judgment of Dismissal, Noting Her Two and a Half Year Delay in Seeking Relief

In a Syracuse medical malpractice lawsuit, time is of the essence. Not only is it prudent to contact attorney as soon as you suspect that an act of medical negligence has taken place, it is imperative that all paperwork be filed in a timely fashion. This includes not only the initial complaint for damages but also other documentation that is required as the case progresses. Failure to act within the time allowed by law can result in dismissal of what might otherwise have been a successful claim for damages.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a former patient of the defendant medical providers. In 2013, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendants, asserting a claim for podiatric malpractice in relation to surgical treatment that the defendants had performed upon the plaintiff. Two months later, the defendants’ attorney submitted demands for a bill of particulars to the plaintiff’s attorney. The defendants also requested authorizations permitting them to access the plaintiff’s medical records. The plaintiff’s attorney refused to provide the information and documents sought by the defendants, and, eventually, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint.

In June 2014, the trial court directed the plaintiff to appear or else the defendants’ motions to dismiss would be granted. The plaintiff did not appear or oppose the defendants’ motions, and the trial court judge dismissed the plaintiff’s case. In March 2016, the plaintiff retained a new attorney, who filed a motion to vacate the previous order of dismissal on the grounds that the plaintiff had not intended to abandon her case and that her previous attorney had not informed her about the previous discovery demands or the court’s orders in response thereto. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion, and she appealed.

The Court’s Ruling on Appeal

The Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department affirmed, thereby agreeing with the lower court’s denial of the plaintiff’s motion to vacate its earlier order dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint against the defendants.

In order to have a previous court order vacated, the court noted that a party has the burden of showing both a reasonable excuse for his or her default and a potentially meritorious opposition to the motion at issue. In some cases, a law firm’s failure to take certain actions can be found to be an excusable reason to vacate a court’s order. Here, however, the plaintiff’s allegations about her prior attorney were conclusory in nature and were unsubstantiated. She offered no detailed excuse as to why she had allowed over two and a half years to go by between the filing of her claim and her inquiry into her previous attorney’s failure to appear or oppose the defendants’ motions. According to the court, the neglect of the plaintiff’s attorney was to be imputed to her under the circumstances. Thus, the court ruled that the lower tribunal had acted appropriately in dismissing the plaintiff’s case.

Contact a Syracuse Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to the negligence of a doctor or other healthcare provider, you must take prompt legal action in order to preserve your right to pursue monetary compensation from the responsible individual or company. For an appointment to discuss a possible medical malpractice claim, please call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, at 315-479-9000 as soon as possible. We represent injured individuals and the families of those who have perished due to others’ negligence throughout the greater Syracuse and Rochester, New York, areas.

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