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New York Court Finds That Summary Judgment Was Erroneous in Birth Injury Malpractice Case

While mothers and infants generally fare much better during labor and delivery than they did in years past, Syracuse birth injuries still happen regularly. Obstetricians, anesthesiologists, nurses, and others are quick to point out that complications can arise even when healthcare workers “do everything right.”

However, these medical workers are human, and they don’t always “do everything right.” When things go wrong, the costs on the family can be staggering. Medical expenses, lost wage for the parent(s), lost earning potential for the child, and pain and suffering are all damages for which a malpractice victim can be financially compensated by the jury in a medical malpractice case – if the case makes it to trial.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a minor child who was born at the defendant hospital via an emergency cesarean section. The plaintiff’s complaint setting forth a claim for medical malpractice alleged that his birth occurred after a prolonged slowing of his heartbeat during delivery and that he suffered numerous injuries as a result from the defendant’s deviation from the accepted standard of care. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, urging the trial court to hold that the plaintiff had failed to provide sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue material fact such that proceeding to trial was necessary.

The Supreme Court of Bronx County granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, thereby dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint.

Decision of the Court

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, reversed the lower court’s ruling. The reviewing court first acknowledged that the parties were in agreement that the plaintiff had suffered a condition known as “perinatal hypoxic ischemic insult” as a result of the bradycardia (slow heart rate) during birth; this was indicated by the acidotic pH level of the umbilical cord at the time of birth and by certain seizure activity that took place within the first few hours following the plaintiff’s birth. In the reviewing court’s opinion, the defendant had failed to establish, prima facie, that its staff conformed to good and accepted medical practice such as would have been required in order to succeed in its quest for a summary judgment dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

In so holding, the court pointed out that the expert opinions submitted by the defendant were “competing” in that the experts reached opposing conclusions – even though they reviewed the same records. Because resolution of conflicts in the accuracy and/or credibility of expert witnesses was a matter within the jury’s province, the court found that summary judgment was inappropriate. On the issue of causation, the court agreed that the defendant had correctly stated that one of the plaintiff’s expert witness had merely discuss the possible association between a perinatal injury and ADHD rather than establish causation prima facie. However, the court went on to note that the plaintiff had also submitted a different expert’s opinion that was sufficient to permit a favorable conclusion regard causation.

Schedule an Appointment with a Syracuse Attorney

Medical malpractice cases involving infants and minor children can be especially heartbreaking. While no one deserves to be the victim of a healthcare provider’s negligence or carelessness, those who are hurt by negligence at such a young age face a literal lifetime of hurt, pain, and struggle. To learn more about holding a doctor or nurse liable for injuries caused by a bad delivery, call the experienced Syracuse birth injury lawyers at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, at 315-479-9000 today.

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