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New York Court Distinguishes Medical Malpractice from Ordinary Negligence

Medical professionals have an obligation to provide their patients with competent care. If they neglect to do so, thereby causing their patients harm, it may constitute medical malpractice. Not all injuries that occur in the context of medical care constitute medical malpractice, however. In a recent New York opinion, a court distinguished medical malpractice from ordinary negligence, ultimately finding that the harm in question was the result of a deviation from a professional standard of care. If you were hurt by the carelessness of a treatment provider, it is smart to talk to a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer about what claims you may be able to pursue.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that in January 2016, the decedent was a patient at the medical center operated by the defendants. During a procedure in the catheter lab, attended by a nurse employed by the medical center and another nurse employed by a staffing company, the decedent, who was legally blind, fell from an examination table after one of the nurses momentarily stepped away. The fall resulted in injuries to the decedent. In 2016, the decedent initiated a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice and lack of informed consent against the medical center and its nurse, filing a certificate of merit as required by law.

Allegedly, in 2018, the decedent began a separate action against the defendants, alleging negligence in her care, specifically mentioning failures in supervision and fall risk assessment due to her blindness, medical conditions, and medications. The decedent died while the case was ongoing, and the plaintiff, as the administrator of the estate, was substituted in the case. The defendants filed a cross-motion to compel the plaintiff to serve a certificate of merit and notice of medical malpractice and to transfer the case to the medical malpractice part. The plaintiff opposed, arguing the case was one of negligence, not medical malpractice. The court denied the defendants’ cross-motion, leading to the appeal.

Distinguishing Medical Malpractice from Ordinary Negligence

On appeal, the court reviewed whether the claims constituted medical malpractice or ordinary negligence by examining the nature of the duty allegedly breached. In doing so, the court explained that a claim sounds in medical malpractice when it involves medical treatment or relates substantially to the provision of medical treatment by a licensed healthcare provider. Conversely, claims sound in negligence when they involve duties separate from medical treatment.

In this case, the court found that the plaintiff’s allegations regarding the assessment of the decedent’s fall risk and the need for supervision were intrinsically linked to medical judgment and competence. Thus, these allegations were consistent with claims of medical malpractice. Consequently, the court ruled that the trial erred in denying the defendants’ cross-motion. As such, it reversed the lower court’s order, and ordered the transfer of the case to the medical malpractice part.

Talk to a Skilled Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you sustained injuries due to the recklessness of a doctor or nurse, you may be able to recover damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit, and you should talk to an attorney. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, our skilled Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys can evaluate your harm and aid you in seeking any available compensation. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 833-247-8427 to arrange a conference.

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