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New York Trial Court Was Correct in Denying Motion to Vacate Dismissal of Medical Malpractice Case Due to Failure to Appear, According to Reviewing Court

Reaching a successful verdict or favorable settlement in a Syracuse medical malpractice case is not easy. In addition to the factual requirements (which, at least to a large degree, must be presented through the testimony of expert witnesses) of proving such a claim, there are many procedural steps that must also be dealt with in an appropriate manner.

These procedural matters include the filing of the requisite paperwork within the statute of limitation period, the completion of discovery during the time allotted by law, and appearances at various hearings scheduled by the trial court. There are many pitfalls that await a litigant who seeks to represent himself or herself – or one who makes the mistake of retaining an attorney not well-versed in these requirements.

Some penalties for untimely action or failure to appear at a particular judicially scheduled event are met with repercussions that, while detrimental, do not serve to put an end to the plaintiff’s case. Sometimes, however, a procedural misstep can spell the end of the plaintiff’s attempt to seek fair compensation for damages caused by a negligent healthcare provider.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant medical provider, seeking to assert a cause of action for alleged medical malpractice. The trial court scheduled a conference between the parties at some point during the litigation, but the plaintiff failed to appear at the conference. Thereafter, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s action pursuant to 22 N.Y.C.R.R. 202.27(b). The plaintiff then sought to have the trial court’s order vacated.

The defendant opposed this order, and the trial court denied the motion pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. 5015(a)(1) to vacate its prior order directing the dismissal of the action and to restore the plaintiff’s case to the court’s calendar.

Decision of the Reviewing Court

The Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department affirmed the lower court’s ruling. The court began by acknowledging that, under New York law, a trial court had discretion to dismiss a case when the plaintiff in the case failed to appear or was not ready to proceed. In the instant case, the reviewing court pointed out that the plaintiff had failed to appear at two “post-note of issue” conferences that had been set by the trial court.

In order to have been successful in his attempt to have the trial court vacate its order of dismissal, the plaintiff would have had to demonstrate both a reasonable excuse for his failure to appear and a potentially meritorious claim. The reviewing court agreed with the lower tribunal’s decision to deny relief to the plaintiff, insomuch as he had failed to meet these requirements.

Call for an Appointment with a Syracuse Lawyer

Successfully litigating a Syracuse medical malpractice case takes a great amount of skill and perseverance. Defendants are quick to seek dismissal of the case against them, especially when the plaintiff waivers in his or her determination to seek justice, so it is important that a person who has suffered harm due to negligent medical malpractice be represented by experienced and knowledgeable legal professionals. At the law firm of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, we work hard for our clients, fighting tirelessly for the best outcome in each case. To schedule a consultation regarding your case, call us at 315-479-9000.

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