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New York Court Explains Shifting Burdens of Proof in Birth Injury Cases

In New York birth injury cases, the success of a plaintiff’s claims hinges not on whether the plaintiff can demonstrate they suffered harm but whether they can link that harm to the defendant’s acts or omissions. If they can, they may be awarded damages, but if they cannot, their claims may be dismissed via summary judgment. Recently, a New York court set forth an opinion explaining each party’s burden of proof in birth injury cases, in a matter in which it ultimately denied the defendant’s motion for dismissal. If your child sustained injuries at birth due to the negligence of a health care provider, you should speak to a Syracuse birth injury lawyer about what evidence you must produce to recover compensation.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the mother presented to the defendant hospital when she was 39 weeks pregnant. She reported contractions and a substantial loss of fluid earlier that morning. She was admitted to the hospital, after which the defendant obstetrician was her attending physician. The infant failed to descend through the birth canal, and a c-section was performed later that afternoon.

Allegedly, the following day the child exhibited twitching in her right eye, torticollis, and other symptoms. Testing showed that she suffered an infarct and hemorrhaging in her brain. As a result, she sustained permanent partial right-sided paralysis. The mother filed a lawsuit against the defendants, averring their negligence caused the infant to sustain a birth injury. The defendants moved for dismissal of the mother’s claims via summary judgment, but the trial court denied the motion. The defendant then appealed.

Shifting Burdens of Proof in Birth Injury Cases

In New York, a doctor moving for summary judgment in a medical malpractice case must first show, prima facie, that there was either no departure from the applicable standard of care or that any departure did not proximately cause the plaintiff’s injuries. If the defendant makes this showing, the burden then shifts to the plaintiff, who must offer factual evidence or materials rebutting the defendant’s prima facie showing, but only as to those elements where the defendant met its burden.

In the subject case, contrary to the defendants’ arguments, the appellate court found that the trial court properly determined that the plaintiff demonstrated that there was a material factual dispute that required resolution by a finder of fact. Specifically, she produced evidence demonstrating that the defendants departed from the standard of care by failing to properly interpret the fetal heart tracings and that the deviation caused the infant’s injury. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Capable Syracuse Lawyer

Mistakes made during the birthing process can cause lifelong impairments, and many families harmed by birth injuries can recover compensation. If your child suffered a birth injury, it is advisable to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The capable Syracuse birth injury attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers are skilled at proving liability for preventable medical errors, and if you hire us, we will fight to help you seek any compensation you and your child may be owed. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 833-200-2000 to set up a meeting.






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