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Summary Judgment Should Have Been Granted to Some Defendants in New York Man’s Medical Malpractice Case Arising from Failure to Diagnose Malaria

In a Syracuse medical malpractice case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant medical provider breached the applicable standard of care. This standard must be determined on a case-by-case basis because not every doctor, nurse, or medical clinic owes a patient the same duty.

For instance, physicians in different specialties may have different duties to diagnose a particular disease in a patient. This means that a general practitioner or “family doctor” might not be expected to recognize a rare disease or illness in every situation.

It should also be noted that, even if it is determined that a particular medical provider did breach a duty of care, the inquiry does not stop there. Additionally, the plaintiff must also be able to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that this breach of care was a proximate cause of the injuries for which the patient or his or her family seeks monetary compensation.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a case recently considered on appeal was a man who presented to the defendant hospital in December 2009, complaining of flu-like symptoms and a fever. Approximately three weeks earlier, the plaintiff had traveled to the Dominican Republic and been bitten by an insect. The defendant physician (who was board certified in pulmonology and internal medicine) determined that the plaintiff was suffering from bronchitis with pneumonia. The patient was discharged after about two weeks; he was given a vaccinations for the flu and pneumonia prior to his discharge. About a week later, the plaintiff went to a different hospital, where he was diagnosed with malaria. Soon thereafter, the plaintiff was diagnosed with Guillian-Barre syndrome.

The plaintiff (joined by his spouse, who was suing derivatively) sought to recover money damages for the alleged medical negligence of the physician, a medical practice, the hospital, and others. Several defendants sought summary judgment. The Supreme Court for Kings County denied the defendants’ motion, and they appealed.

Outcome of the Issues in the Appellate Tribunal

The Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, reversed, holding that the moving defendants were entitled to summary judgment. In the reviewing court’s opinion, the defendants had met their initial burden of establishing that they had not departed from the standard of care (or, if they had, that such departure was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries) by submitting the testimony of two experts, one of whom was board certified in internal medicine and pulmonary diseases and the other of whom was certified in neurology.

Although the plaintiff submitted his own expert’s affidavit in opposition to the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, the reviewing court pointed out that this expert faulted another doctor (an infectious disease specialist) rather than the defendants who were seeking summary judgment. Without any evidence that the moving defendants assumed a duty of care to diagnose and treat malaria or otherwise departed from the standard of care in deferring to the specialist on this issue, the plaintiff’s malpractice case against these defendants failed.

Get Started on an Injury Case in Syracuse

If you believe that a Syracuse medical provider has engaged in conduct that amounted to hospital malpractice, you need to speak with an attorney who can evaluate your case and explain the procedure for holding the responsible practitioner liable. For a free consultation with a member of the DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP legal team, call us at 833-247-8427 or contact us through this website.

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