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Court Discusses Admissibility of Evidence of Prior Bad Acts in New York Medical Malpractice Cases

Many medical providers are employees of larger medical groups. As such, patients harmed by negligent medical care often not only pursue claims against the treating physician but also against the hospital or medical group that employed the physician. Depending on the facts of the case, however, the court may decline to allow a plaintiff to proceed against a doctor and the doctor’s employer in the same case. The standards for determining whether claims against a doctor and the medical group that employed the doctor should be severed were recently set forth in a primary care malpractice case reviewed by a New York appellate court. If you were injured by negligent care rendered by a primary care physician, it is advisable to meet with a proficient Rochester medical malpractice attorney to discuss what claims you may be able to pursue.

Procedural Background of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant primary care physician engaged in inappropriate physical contact with the plaintiff during a routine physical. The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice claims against the defendant physician and the defendant medical group that employed the defendant physician. The plaintiff also asserted negligent hiring and supervision, and vicarious liability claims against the defendant medical group. The defendant physician filed a motion to sever the claim against him from the remaining claims. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Severance of Claims in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

In New York, a court may order a severance of certain claims or may order a separate trial of any issue or claim. In the subject case, the defendant physician alleged that the claims against the defendant medical group arose out of the allegation that the defendant physician engaged in similar conduct with another patient. The defendant physician further alleged evidence of whether he previously acted inappropriately with a patient would not be admissible in a trial on the issue of whether he was liable to the plaintiff for medical malpractice.

The court agreed, finding that, generally, it is not proper to assert that a person committed an act on a certain occasion by introducing evidence that the person engaged in a similar act on a different occasion that is unrelated. As such, the court stated that even if it is relevant, evidence of previous unrelated acts of negligent treatment of a patient constitutes evidence that a defendant has a propensity to act in a certain manner and is impermissible. Additionally, the court held that such evidence lacks probative value and may persuade the jury to issue a verdict based on the defendant’s character rather than the facts of the case. Based on the foregoing, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Consult a Dedicated Malpractice Attorney

If you sustained injuries due to inappropriate treatment rendered by a primary care physician, it is advisable to consult a dedicated medical malpractice attorney regarding what damages you may be able to recover. The attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are adept at helping injured parties in the pursuit of compensation and will zealously advocate on your behalf. You can reach us through the online form or at 585-653-7343 to schedule a confidential and free meeting.

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