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New York Court Denies Summary Judgment to Medical Providers Accused of Delayed Diagnosis in Cancer Case

A delayed cancer diagnosis can be very costly to a patient. Lost time can greatly impact a patient’s treatment options and ultimate chance of recovery.

When this happens, the patient or his or her family may have the option of filing a Syracuse medical malpractice lawsuit against the physician whose negligence caused the delay. In some instances, multiple medical providers may be held accountable for the patient’s damages.

In oncology malpractice cases, as in other types of medical malpractice lawsuits, it is the plaintiff who has the burden of proof at trial. This requires expert testimony in most cases, usually from a doctor in the same specialty (or, sometimes, in a similar field) as the allegedly negligent medical provider.

Facts of the Case

In a Broom County Supreme Court case recently considered on appeal, the plaintiff was the executor of the estate of a man who died of lung cancer in 2015. (The suit was originally filed by the decedent, but the executor was substituted as plaintiff after his death.) The plaintiff’s medical malpractice suit alleged that the decedent had been treated by the defendant medical providers (a radiologist, a medical center, and others) in 2012 but that the decedent’s medical condition had not been properly diagnosed; although the defendants noted a “questionable nodule” on the decedent’s chest X-ray, his lung cancer was not actually diagnosed until several months later. Thereafter, it spread to his brain.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the plaintiff’s amended complaint. The trial court generally denied the motion but held that claims against two defendants arising after a certain date in the summer of 2012 would be dismissed for lack of causation if, at some later point, the continuous treatment doctrine was found to be inapplicable to the facts of the case.

Outcome of the Case on Appeal

The New York Appellate Division, Third Department, affirmed the lower court’s order. Although some of the defendants had met their initial burden of demonstrating that they were entitled to summary judgment, the reviewing court agreed with the lower tribunal that the plaintiff had provided evidence sufficient to warrant the case continuing on to trial for a resolution of the issues by the finder of fact. In so holding, the court agreed with the plaintiff and the trial court that the plaintiff’s expert witness (an oncologist/hematologist licensed in New York and New Jersey) was qualified to render an opinion on the standards that were applicable to a primary care physician at the times relevant to the dispute between the parties. Under New York law, an expert witness is not required to share the specialty of the defendant in the case, although the jury could consider their different specialties in deciding how much weight to give to the expert’s opinion.

Call a Syracuse Injury Attorney

If you believe that a doctor or other healthcare professional has made a mistake that has led to harm for you or a member of your family, the oncology malpractice attorneys at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP are here to help. We regularly assist those who have been hurt by delays in cancer diagnosis and other types of medical negligence. Call us at 833-200-2000 or contact us through this website to learn more about scheduling a free review of your potential malpractice case.

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