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Court Discusses Evidence of a Doctor-Patient Relationship Under New York Law

Medical doctors are held to a specific standard of care, and if they depart from the standard, they can be held accountable for injuries or illnesses caused by their incompetence. It is axiomatic, however, that they may only be deemed liable for medical malpractice if their negligent acts harm a person in the context of a doctor-patient relationship. In a recent case in which the plaintiff sued several neurosurgeons after he became paralyzed, a New York court explained what level of interaction is sufficient to establish a treating relationship. If you suffered nerve damage or other injuries because of a doctor’s careless acts, you should consult a dedicated Rochester neurosurgery malpractice attorney regarding your possible claims.

The Plaintiff’s Treatment

It is alleged that the plaintiff, who worked as a deckhand on a boat, was moving heavy equipment when he felt a pop in his neck. He was helped off the boat and taken to a medical facility, after which he was transported to the defendant hospital for an evaluation. He was assessed by a doctor in the emergency room, who then called the on-call neurologist and the on-call neurosurgeon, who advised that the plaintiff should be transferred to another hospital to undergo surgery.

Reportedly, the plaintiff was transferred and eventually underwent surgery to decompress his spinal cord, but he was nonetheless paralyzed. He then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against numerous providers that treated him in connection with his injury, including the neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that he did not have a doctor-patient relationship with the plaintiff and therefore, could not be held liable. The court disagreed and denied his motion.

Demonstrating a Doctor-Patient Relationship Exists

In assessing whether a plaintiff’s claims against a defendant sound in negligence or medical malpractice, the court must determine the nature of the duty the defendant allegedly breached. If the duty arose out of a doctor-patient relationship, the breach would constitute medical malpractice rather than ordinary negligence. As such, a plaintiff must establish that a doctor-patient relationship exists between him and the defendant in order to recover on a malpractice claim.

The court explained that a doctor-patient relationship is created when a physician renders professional services to another party for the purposes of surgical or medical treatment and can be based on either an express or implied contract. In other words, if a physician takes charge of a case, he asserts that he will exercise reasonable care and his best judgment in using his professional skills and that his skills are those of a competent physician in the community.

The primary factor in determining whether a doctor-patient relationship exists is the extent to which the defendant advised the plaintiff regarding a medical condition and the plaintiff’s reliance on such advice. In the subject case, the court found that there was sufficient evidence of a doctor-patient relationship to withstand summary judgment. As such, the court denied the defendant’s motion.

Speak to an Experienced Attorney in Rochester

If you suffered harm due to negligent care rendered by a neurosurgeon, you may be owed compensation and should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced Rochester neurosurgery malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are skilled at helping injured parties in the pursuit of damages, and we will work tirelessly to help you pursue any compensation you may be owed for your injuries. You can contact us through our online form or at 585-653-7343 to schedule a meeting.

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