In any Rochester medical malpractice case, there will likely be motions presented by either party, which the court will hear and rule upon. When the court issues a ruling on a contested matter it defines the law of the case, and absent new evidence, all parties must abide by the ruling. This rule, which is known as the law of the case doctrine, was recently discussed by a New York appellate court in a medical malpractice case in which the plaintiff sought to strike the defendant’s answer due to spoliation of evidence, despite a previous ruling on the issue. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to negligent care provided by a doctor it is essential to retain a skilled Rochester medical malpractice attorney to help you seek compensation.
Reportedly, the plaintiff, as the administrator of the decedent’s estate, filed a lawsuit against the defendant in 2014, alleging claims of medical malpractice and wrongful death arising out of the decedent’s death in 2012. The case proceeded to trial and when the jury was being selected, the plaintiff orally moved to strike the defendant’s answer and new matter and for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability. The basis for the plaintiff’s motion was the defendant’s purported spoliation of evidence relating to the telemetry strips used to monitor the decedent, and the failure to perform an autopsy on the decedent. The defendant opposed the motion, arguing in part that the trial court had previously denied a motion filed by the plaintiff which sought to strike the defendant’s answer due to spoliation of evidence. The court granted the plaintiff’s motion in spite of the defendant’s objection, and the defendant subsequently appealed.
Law of the Case Doctrine
First, the appellate court noted that a motion for judgment as a matter of law is premature if it is made prior to the close of the opposing party’s case. Thus, the appellate court found that the trial court erred in granting the motion. Further, the appellate court held that the trial court violated the law of the case doctrine in granting the plaintiff’s motion. The law of the case doctrine is a rule of practice, which articulates the policy that once an issue is ruled upon by a judge, it should be the end of the debate on that particular matter. Under the law of the case doctrine, an issue that has been ruled upon is foreclosed from further consideration, unless new evidence is discovered or there is a change in the law. In the subject case, the appellate court ruled that the trial court erred in ignoring the prior order regarding the spoliation issue. Thus, the appellate court reinstated the defendant’s answer.