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New York Court Holds that Defendants’ Failure to File Timely Answer Should Have Resulted in Default Judgment in Medical Negligence Case

Hopefully, everyone knows by now that there is a statute of limitations that places an outer limit on the time during which a Syracuse medical malpractice claim can be filed. While there are a few, very limited exceptions to this rule, most cases that are filed outside of this time period are dismissed by the court – no matter how egregious the conduct or how severe the injuries.

It is also important to note that there are many other deadlines that may apply in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, including the time for filing an answer if you happen to be the person or business against whom a claim is made. Again, while there are a few exceptions to the general rule regarding timeliness (of filing both a complaint and an answer thereto), but these are few and far between.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was the administrator of the estate of a man who allegedly suffered personal injuries while a resident at nursing home allegedly operated by the defendants. The plaintiff filed suit against the defendants, seeking to recover money damages. The defendants failed to answer the plaintiff’s complaint within the time allowed by law, so the plaintiff filed a motion for a default judgment pursuant to New York Consolidated Laws, Civil Practice Law and Rules ยง 3215. The defendants opposed the motion filed by the plaintiff and filed their own motion, cross-moving for an extension of time to file their answer.

The Supreme Court of Erie County denied the plaintiff’s motion for a default judgment and granted the defendants’ motion for an extension of time in which to file an answer. The plaintiff appealed.

The Court of Appeals’ Decision

The Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department, reversed the lower court’s ruling. According to the court, the plaintiff had established his entitlement to a default judgement when he submitted proof of service of the summons and complaint, the facts constituting his claim, and the defendants’ failure to file a timely answer. Noting that some of the defendants had failed to submit any opposition to the plaintiff’s motion, the court found that the lower tribunal had erred in denying the plaintiff’s motion for a default judgement.

In the court’s view, only if the remaining defendants had been able to present a reasonable excuse for their failure to file a timely answer, as well as non-speculative evidence of a prima facie defense, would the outcome have been different. (Although some of the defendants filed a proposed answer, the answer was not verified by anyone with personal knowledge of the facts.)

Talk to a Syracuse Malpractice Lawyer

Medical malpractice happens much more often that most of us realize. If you think that you or a loved one has been hurt by a doctor or nurse’s error, you should talk to a lawyer about filing a claim against the responsible party. To schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 315-479-9000. We do not charge an attorney fee until we recover money damages on your behalf via a settlement or judgment.

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