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Summary Judgment to Ambulance Company Affirmed by New York Appellate Tribunal

Birth injuries caused by negligence during childbirth and delivery are, unfortunately, quite common. Just like surgeons and general practitioners, obstetricians and pediatricians sometimes make mistakes, and both mother and child can suffer serious, sometimes even fatal, consequences.

As with other types of Syracuse medical malpractice lawsuits, the plaintiff has the burden of proving his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence. Typically, the defendant will attempt to get the case dismissed prior to trial via summary judgment.

When this happens, the result usually depends on the strength of the parties’ respective medical expert witnesses. Unless there is a genuine issue of material fact presented by their affidavits, the court will likely rule in the defendant’s favor.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was the adoptive mother of an infant who had allegedly suffered personal injuries due to the professional negligence of the defendants, an ambulance company and a city health and hospitals corporation. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the infant had suffered injuries because of the defendants’ delays in tending to the child’s biological mother. In opposition to the plaintiff’s complaint, the ambulance company submitted the affidavit of an expert witness, who was of the opinion that the ambulance company’s technicians had treated the mother in accordance with the accepted standards of emergency medicine and that any alleged deviation from such standards was not a proximate cause of the injuries allegedly suffered by the infant.

The Supreme Court of Bronx County granted summary judgment in the defendant ambulance company’s favor, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Court’s Decision

The New York Appellate Division, First Department affirmed the lower court’s order granting summary judgment in the defendant’s favor. The court so held because it found that the plaintiff’s expert witness had failed to raise a triable issue in his affidavit. Rather than call into question the defendant ambulance company’s alleged departure from accepted practice as a proximate cause of the injuries allegedly sustained by the infant, the affidavit of the plaintiff’s medical expert was “speculative, conclusory, and insufficient” in the reviewing court’s opinion.

Presumably, the plaintiff’s complaint against the other defendant (the city health and hospitals corporation) remained viable, as there was no discussion of that defendant in the court’s opinion. It is possible that this defendant had already filed – and been denied – a motion for summary judgment. If not, it is likely that the plaintiff will face this obstacle before her case proceeds to trial.

Consult a Malpractice Attorney

While the medical community would like us to believe otherwise, the fact is that an act of medical negligence can harm a patient at many different times in life, including during the birthing process, possibly resulting in a birth injury. If  you believe that your child has been hurt during birth or delivery, you should talk to an experienced Syracuse medical malpractice attorney about your concerns. Under New York law, you only have a limited time to file a claim for damages on your child’s behalf, so it is important that you talk to an attorney as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation with the law firm of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, call us at 315-479-9000 or contact us through this website.

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