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New York Court Reverses Summary Judgment for Anesthesiologist in Shoulder Injury Case

Most medical procedures come with some degree of risk. Patients are supposed to be informed of both the potential risks and benefits of a given procedure prior to giving their consent. When a physician fails to obtain informed consent, or if the doctor deviates from the standard of care and injures the patient by his or her mistake, a Syracuse medical malpractice claim may be possible against the negligent medical provider. Like other types of medical negligence cases, surgical malpractice cases usually require expert testimony in order to establish several elements, including the standard of care that the doctor should have followed and whether any deviation from this standard was the proximate cause of harm to the patient.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case considered on appeal by the New York Appellate Division, First Department, the plaintiff was a woman who alleged that she had suffered an injury to her brachial plexus as a result of an interscalene nerve block, which she underwent prior to having arthroscopic surgery on her shoulder. She filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in the Supreme Court of New York County, seeking monetary compensation from several defendants, including the anesthesiologist who performed the nerve block, an anesthesiology fellow, a medical center, and the physician who performed the plaintiff’s shoulder surgery. The trial court granted summary judgment to the anesthesiologist, the anesthesiology fellow, and the medical center, prompting the plaintiff to seek appellate review.

Outcome of the Appeal

The appellate court modified the lower court’s decision to vacate the dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint against the anesthesiologist and the medical center, thereby reinstating the medical malpractice and lack of informed consent claims against the anesthesiologist and the vicarious liability claim against the medical center (based on the doctrine of ostensible agency). According to the reviewing court, the lower tribunal had been wrong in granting summary judgment to the anesthesiologist because the plaintiff’s expert affidavits raised issues of fact on the issues of the defendants’ alleged deviation from the standard of care and causation.

The court further opined that the plaintiff had provided sufficient evidence of her claim of res ipsa loquitur to survive summary judgment. In the court’s view, there was an issue of fact as to whether the injuries claimed by the plaintiff could ordinarily occur in the absence of negligence; although the defendants’ expert opined that the plaintiff’s symptoms were inconsistent with needle trauma, their expert failed to identify any other cause of the plexopathy suffered by the plaintiff. The court also found that summary judgment on the plaintiff’s lack of informed consent claim was in error insomuch as the defendants’ expert witness’s opinion was conclusory.

The reviewing court agreed with the anesthesiology fellow that summary judgment in her favor was appropriate because she was acting under the anesthesiologist’s supervision and did not actively participate in – nor exercise any independent judgment during – the procedure that allegedly caused harm to the plaintiff.

Discuss a Possible Medical Malpractice Claim with an Experienced Attorney

Anesthesia errors can lead to permanent and debilitating harm to a patient who placed his or her trust in a surgeon, anesthesiologist, or other health care professional. If the patient is able to prove that the doctor’s deviation from the applicable standard of care was the proximate cause of his or her injuries, substantial compensation may be available. To talk to an established Syracuse surgical malpractice lawyer, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, at 315-479-9000 and set up an appointment at your earliest convenience.

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