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Summary Judgment Granted in Part, Denied in Part in New York Family’s Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for Relative’s Post-Surgery Death

In a Syracuse medical malpractice case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving his or case by a preponderance of the evidence. Often, a defendant (doctor, hospital, or other medical provider) will attempt to circumvent the usual trial practice by filing what is known as a summary judgment motion. Such a motion is granted when the court finds that there is no triable issue of fact.

When a court grants such a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff’s case may be dismissed in part or even in its entirety. Thus, it is important that the plaintiff be able to offer sufficient proof of his or her claim in opposition to the motion. Consulting an experienced medical malpractice attorney early on in the process is essential to securing the necessary evidence of negligence to survive a motion for summary judgment and, ultimately, the prevail at trial.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants, a medical center, a doctor, and others, asserting claims for medical malpractice, lack of informed consent, and the wrongful death of their decedent, a man who allegedly died from complications of gallbladder removal surgery. One of the doctors filed a motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court for Kings County denied the motion, and the defendant doctor appealed.

The Court’s Decision on Appeal

The Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, modified the trial court’s order by granting the defendant summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ lack of informed consent claim, but the appellate court otherwise affirmed. The court began by explaining that the defendant doctor’s involvement in the decedent’s treatment was as a fourth-year gastroenterology fellow and medical doctor; he allegedly failed to re-test the decedent’s blood coagulation profile and treat him accordingly prior to his surgery. According to the plaintiffs’ view of the case, this failure to act amounted to negligence and contributed to their decedent’s wrongful death.

Under New York medical malpractice law, in order to succeed on a motion for summary judgment, a moving defendant must establish that there was no departure from the accepted standard of care or that, if there was a departure, this departure was not a proximate cause of the injury or death complained of by the plaintiff(s) in the case. Here, the defendant doctor submitted an expert’s affirmation to the effect that he had not deviated from the accepted standards of care and that his treatment of the decedent did not proximately cause his death. The defendant doctor also established that, as a fourth-year fellow, he was not exercising independent medical judgment at the time in question but, rather, was under the direction of attending physicians.

However, the plaintiffs also submitted the opinion of an expert, and their expert’s testimony raised a triable issue of fact as to some of the issues, in the appellate court’s opinion. Because summary judgment was not appropriate in light of the conflicting medical expert opinions proffered by the parties, the court agreed that summary judgment was not appropriate on the plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and wrongful death claims. The court did agree with the defendant doctor on the informed consent claim, however, holding that he had established that he did not have a duty to obtain informed consent from the decedent because he was involved in the surgery that, ultimately, led to the decedent’s death (the plaintiffs offered no evidence in opposition to this assertion by the doctor).

Hire a New York Malpractice Lawyer

To schedule a free consultation to discuss a potential Syracuse medical malpractice lawsuit, call the lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, today at 315-479-9000. There is no legal fee due until your case is settled or results in a favorable judgment, so please do not put off this important phone call. The sooner you call, the sooner we can begin gathering evidence to support your claim at trial.

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