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Court Discusses Expert Qualifications in Medical Malpractice Cases in New York

A plaintiff pursuing medical malpractice claims in New York must prove that the defendant medical provider deviated from the standard of care, causing the plaintiff harm. In most cases, this is established via the opinion of a medical expert. Although it is beneficial to retain an expert that practices in the same specialty as the defendant, it is not required. If an expert practices in a different area of medicine, however, the plaintiff must prove that the expert is nonetheless qualified to opine on the disputed issues. In a recent orthopedic malpractice case, a New York appellate court discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence to demonstrate an expert is qualified.   If you were harmed by negligently rendered orthopedic care, it is prudent to meet with a trusted Rochester orthopedic malpractice attorney to discuss what evidence you must produce to recover compensation.

Facts and Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff underwent a right hip replacement in 2008. Two years later, he underwent a catheterization due to heart blockage and a heart attack. Later that year, due to an infection, he had to undergo a total hip replacement revision surgery. He subsequently filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the providers that performed his catheterization as well as his orthopedist and family care physician, alleging they were negligent and that their negligence caused him to develop an infection, which required additional surgery. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court denied. The defendants appealed.

Qualifications of Medical Experts

A defendant seeking dismissal of a medical malpractice case via summary judgment must show either that there was no departure from the standard of care, or that any departure did not cause the plaintiff’s alleged harm. In the subject case, the trial court found that the defendants set forth prima facie evidence that they were entitled to summary judgment, but that the plaintiff raised a triable issue of fact by way of an expert report in response, which warranted a dismissal of the defendants’ motion. The appellate court disagreed. Specifically, on review, the appellate court found that the plaintiff failed to establish that his expert witness was qualified to offer an opinion on the applicable standard of care that applied to the family physician or orthopedist.

The court stated that while a medical expert does not need to be a specialist in the same field as the defendant to offer competent testimony, the expert must nonetheless possess the required skill, training, experience, or knowledge from which it can be gleaned that his or her opinion is reliable. As such, in cases in which a doctor provides an opinion outside of the scope of his or her expertise, a foundation must be laid to support the position that his opinion is reliable. In the subject case, the plaintiff’s expert specialized in general surgery but offered no support for the assertion that he was able to opine on orthopedics or family medicine, or the standards of care that applied to each practice area. Thus, the court found that he was not qualified as an expert in those areas medicine, and reversed the trial court’s order, dismissing the plaintiff’s claims as to the orthopedist and family physician.

Confer with a Knowledgeable Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you were injured by a negligent orthopedist, it is wise to confer with a knowledgeable orthopedic malpractice attorney to discuss whether you may be able to recover damages. The experienced malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are adept at navigating the New York courts and will assertively pursue the best result available in your case. You can reach us at 585-653-7343 or through our form online to set up a consultation.

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