New York medical malpractice lawsuits are subject to the same civil procedure rules as other litigation in New York courts. These rules guide all phases of the litigation and are comprised of deadlines, requests, and filings made to the court. Sometimes lawsuits are dismissed because of procedural lapses, instead of being dismissed on the merits of the malpractice claim. In one case, the New York Appellate Division, Fourth Department ruled on whether the plaintiff’s lawsuit should have been dismissed pursuant to New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, Rule 3404.
The facts of the case are as follows. A patient was admitted to a Niagara Falls hospital’s psychiatric wing. While under the psychiatrist’s care, the patient leaped from the top of the hospital’s roof and suffered serious injuries. The guardian of the patient filed a psychiatric malpractice lawsuit against the patient’s psychiatrist. The pre-trial litigation phase of discovery commenced, and the plaintiff filed a note of issue. In response, the defendant moved to vacate the note of issue because discovery was incomplete, the defendant alleged. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion and ordered additional discovery.
The plaintiff did not file a new note of issue for another year. Thus, the defendant moved to dismiss the psychiatric malpractice claim pursuant to Rule 3404. This procedural rule allows for the judicial dismissal of inactive cases under certain prescribed situations. The plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing that 3404 did not apply when the note of issue has been vacated. The court denied the defendant’s motion and noted that this very issue was subject to inconsistent rulings at the trial court level.