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New York Dentist Should Have Been Granted Summary Judgment on Malpractice Claim, Says Appellate Court

In a Syracuse professional negligence case seeking monetary compensation for injuries caused by alleged medical or dental malpractice, the plaintiff has the burden of proof at trial. This means that he or she must be able to convince the jury of his or her right to money damages by a preponderance of the evidence.

However, it is not unusual for a malpractice case to be dismissed before it gets to trial. This is often through a pre-trial litigation tool known as “summary judgment.” Part of the idea behind summary judgment is that a case that does not have at least enough proof to create a genuine issue of fact should not proceed to trial because it would be a waste of judicial resources.

In order to make it past a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff must be able to offer a professional expert witness’s opinion as to the relevant matters in the case. Typically, this includes not only whether a deviation from the standard of care took place but also whether, if it did, the deviation was the proximate cause of the injuries about which the plaintiff complains in his or her pleadings to the court.

Facts of the Case

In a recent dental malpractice lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court of Nassau County, the plaintiff sought compensation for injuries caused by the alleged negligence of the defendant dentist during certain treatment that took place in 2013. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant failed to obtain his informed consent for some of the work that was done to him. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff had failed to provide evidence sufficient to create a triable issue of fact on either issue.

The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and he appealed.

The Appellate Tribunal’s Opinion on the Issues

The New York Appellate Division, Second Department, reversed the lower court’s decision in favor of the plaintiff. The court began by reiterating the requisite elements of proof in a malpractice action, namely proof of a deviation/departure from accepted standards of practice and proximate causation. To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the defendant has the initial burden of showing that there was not a deviation or, if there was, that it was not the proximate cause of the harm for which the plaintiff seeks monetary compensation.

Here, the court found that the defendant had satisfied his burden of proof by submitting the affirmation of a dental expert to the effect that the defendant had not departed from good and accepted practice and/or that any such departure was not the proximate cause of any injuries to the plaintiff. The court further opined that the plaintiff had failed to raise a triable issue of fact with regard to his lack of informed consent claim.

If You Need Legal Advice

Being hurt by a medical provider’s negligence can be devastating. In addition to the physical injuries resulting from the doctor or nurse’s mistake, there may be emotional distress, financial burdens, time lost from work, and even permanent disability. To talk to an experienced¬†malpractice lawyer, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP today at 315-479-9000. Our phone lines are always open, and there is no charge for the initial consultation. Call us now to learn more about how we can help you assert your legal rights.

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