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New York Woman’s Surgical Malpractice Case Should Not Have Been Dismissed on Summary Judgment

Motions for summary judgment are common in Syracuse medical malpractice cases. Summary judgment is a pre-trial procedure in which one party or the other (but usually the defendant) asks the court to award judgment to that party on the basis that there are no genuine issues of material fact on one or more claims.

If a court grants summary judgment, it is in effect saying that, even if any questionable evidence is construed in the light favoring the party opposing the motion, there really isn’t anything to fight about. In other words, a jury trial is not necessary because there are not any material facts that must be resolved.

When summary judgment is granted, the losing party has the right to seek appellate review of the lower’s court’s decision. When summary judgment is denied, sometimes there is an immediate appeal but, in some situations, the issue is addressed during the post-trial phase of the case.

Facts of the Case

In a medical malpractice case arising in New York County, the plaintiff was a woman who claimed that the defendant doctor was negligent during his performance of surgery to her intestine and that, as a result, she was injured, and additional medical treatment was required. The plaintiff further averred that the defendant had violated his duties to her regarding the process of obtaining informed consent to certain medical treatment. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion and dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint prior to trial. The plaintiff filed an appeal, seeking to have the lower court’s ruling reversed.

Decision of the Court on Appeal

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, agreed with the plaintiff’s argument that her case had been improperly dismissed on summary judgment. Under New York law, a case is subject to summary judgment dismissal only when there is no genuine issue of material fact that requires the consideration of the jury (or, in some cases, the trial court judge) as finder-of-fact. Here, the plaintiff submitted an expert witness’s affidavit stating that the defendant should have discovered the injury to her intestine during his initial surgery. In the reviewing court’s opinion, this witness’s affidavit was sufficient to raise a triable issue of fact on both whether the defendant should have discovered the injury during the surgery and whether he was timely in diagnosing the injury after the surgery.

As to the plaintiff’s claim for lack of informed consent, however, the appellate tribunal agreed with the lower court that the plaintiff’s cause of action failed on this claim. In so holding, the court noted that, while the plaintiff’s expert had said that the plaintiff should have been informed of the risk of injury to her bowel, the expert had not actually opined that a reasonable practitioner would have so informed the plaintiff.

Speak to Counsel About a Malpractice Case in Syracuse

A doctor or surgeon’s medical malpractice can be devastating to a patient and his or her family. Pain and suffering, additional medical costs, and lifelong health complications can all occur in such situations. If you have questions about the process of holding a Syracuse or Rochester medical practitioner responsible for harm caused by medical or surgical negligence, DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP can help. Call us at 833-247-8427 and ask for a free case consultation.

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