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Summary Judgment in Favor of New York Doctor and Medical Practice Affirmed – Court Hints Result Might Have Different if Autopsy Had Been Performed

Perhaps the most important thing that a patient should know about a Syracuse medical malpractice case is that, if something goes wrong and he or she feels the need to sue a medical provider for negligence, it is the patient who bears the burden of proof. This is true even though the doctor was the professional, and the patient was the layperson.

In order to prove his or her case, the plaintiff will need to obtain his or her medical records, have another medical professional review them, and have that expert witness testify at trial as to the mistakes that were made and how they affected the plaintiff. This is a difficult task and one that almost always requires the help of legal counsel.

An attorney who regularly practices in this area of the law can guide the injured person through an investigation of his or her claim, help the patient secure the necessary records, and work with potential expert witnesses to build the plaintiff’s case. This can be a protracted process, so it is important that a person who has been hurt by an act of medical negligence seek counsel right away.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case arising in the Supreme Court of Kings County, the plaintiff asserted a medical malpractice action on behalf of a woman who died in 2013 after having been examined by the defendant doctor (who was, at the time, employed by the defendant medical practice) and released to return home rather than told to seek emergency care. According to the plaintiff, the decedent presented to the doctor’s office with symptoms of a chronic dry cough, shortness of breath, and unintended weight loss. After ordering an EKG, chest X-ray, and blood chemistry tests, the doctor prescribed ampicillin to the decedent but did not direct her to seek care in a hospital.

The decedent returned to the doctor’s office two days later; the doctor advised her to follow up in two weeks but, again, did not tell her to go to an emergency room to seek treatment. The next day, the decedent suffered a cardiac arrest. She died three weeks later.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the doctor and his employer. The plaintiff sought appellate review.

Decision of the Court

The Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, affirmed the lower court’s judgment. The reviewing court began by examining the underlying principles of medical malpractice law, in particular the rule that causes of actions sounding in medical negligence require the plaintiff to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant departed from the applicable standard of care and that such deviation was a proximate cause of the injuries for which the plaintiff seeks compensation. In order for a defendant to be granted summary judgment, he or she must prima facie show that there was no departure from the standard of care or that any such deviation was not a proximate cause of the patient’s injuries.

In reviewing the evidence submitted by the parties in the case at bar, the reviewing court agreed with the trial court that the defendants had met their burden of showing an absence of genuine material fact as to the plaintiff’s allegation of medical negligence. In opposing the defendants’ motion, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue sufficient to defeat the defendants’ motion. In the reviewing court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s evidence was, at best, conclusory and speculative. Had the plaintiff submitted an autopsy showing the plaintiff’s cause of death, the court implied that its conclusion may possibly have differed.

Contact an Attorney for Advice About a Malpractice Claim

At the law firm of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, our attorneys handle many different types of medical malpractice cases in the Syracuse area, including surgical malpractice, oncology malpractice, and hospital malpractice. For a free consultation regarding your potential case, call us at 315-479-9000. There’s no charge for the appointment, and no legal fees are required up front if we accept your case.

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