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New York Woman’s Failure to Put Doctor on Notice of 2011 Malpractice Claim Resulted in Partial Summary Judgment to Physician

In a New York medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff has the burden of proof. This means that he or she must be able to produce appropriately convincing evidence that the defendant(s) violated the standard of care owed to the plaintiff and that this was the proximate cause of the damages for which the plaintiff seeks monetary compensation. Most medical malpractice lawsuits involve one or more motions for summary judgment – a legal vehicle through which the defendant(s) seeks dismissal of the case prior to trial. Sometimes such motions are granted or denied in their entirety, but the court may opt for a partial granting of summary judgment in some situations.

Facts of the Case

In a court opinion recently issued by the New York Appellate Division, First Department, the plaintiff was a woman who sued the defendants, a hospital and a medical doctor, for medical malpractice, alleging that the doctor had failed to properly interpret her decedent’s echocardiogram during a period beginning in late 2012 and ending in early 2013. The doctor filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims against him and arguing that he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The Supreme Court of New York County denied summary judgment as to the doctor, and heĀ appealed.

The Decision of the Court

The appeals tribunal reversed the lower court’s denial of summary judgment as to any claims of negligence alleged to have occurred prior to December 26, 2012, or after January 21, 2013. The court first noted that the plaintiff’s bill of particulars alleged that the doctor had been negligent in failing to properly interpret a particular echocardiogram on January 18, 2013, which the plaintiff alleged showed a more diluted aorta than seen on a prior echocardiogram taken in August 2011. The plaintiff had further alleged that the defendants’ negligent acts took place “from on or about December 26, 2012, through January 21, 2013, and prior or subsequent thereto.” However, the plaintiff’s expert’s opinion, submitted in opposition to the doctor’s motion for summary judgment, had opined that the doctor was also negligent in his interpretation of the 2011 echocardiogram.

In the appeals court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s complaint and bill of particulars were only sufficient to put the doctor on notice of his alleged negligence in early 2013. Because the plaintiff had not properly put the doctor on notice of a claim that he deviated from the standard of care as early as August 2011, the trial court should have granted summary judgment as to the plaintiff’s claims allegedly arising before late 2012 or after early 2013. The plaintiff’s “vague, ambiguous, and nonspecific allegations” concerning claims “prior to or subsequent thereto” of her primary claims were not sufficient to give notice of a 2011 act of negligence.

Consult an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Matters of timeliness are very important in negligence lawsuits, particularly those involving doctors and hospitals. If you or a loved one has suffered because of a medical professional’s mistake, you have a limited amount of time in which to file a claim. Please call the helpful Syracuse medical malpractice team at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, to learn more about asserting your legal rights. You can reach us at 315-479-9000 or via the contact form on this website.

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