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Court Discusses Sanctions for Spoliation of Evidence in New York Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical records are a critical component of establishing liability in medical malpractice cases. As such, if a hospital named as a defendant in a medical malpractice case fails to retain records regarding a plaintiff’s treatment, it may be sanctioned by the court. Generally, though, the court will not impose the drastic remedy of striking the defendant’s pleading, as demonstrated in an opinion recently delivered by a New York court. If you sustained losses because of a doctor’s negligence, you should speak to a Rochester medical malpractice lawyer about what evidence you may need to prove liability.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff, who was born at the defendant’s medical center, suffered injuries during her birth. She subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant, setting forth claims of medical malpractice, lack of informed consent, and negligent hiring and supervision. The defendant moved for summary judgment dismissal of the plaintiff’s lack of informed consent and negligent hiring and supervision claims.

Allegedly, the plaintiff cross-moved for summary for spoliation sanctions on the grounds that the defendant failed to preserve the plaintiff’s fetal monitoring strips. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion and denied the plaintiff’s motion while granting her leave to renew the motion to the extent it sought an adverse inference instruction at trial. The plaintiff then appealed.

Sanctions for Spoliation of Evidence in Medical Malpractice Cases

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. The court explained that a party that requests sanctions for the spoliation of evidence must demonstrate that the opposing party had control over the evidence in question and an obligation to preserve it at the time it was destroyed and that it was destroyed with a guilty state of mind.

The moving party must also show that the evidence was relevant to their claim or defense; in other words, the fact finder would determine that the evidence supported the moving party’s position. Striking a pleading is an extreme sanction, and the courts will assess the extent of prejudice the moving party suffered as a result of the spoliation to determine whether such relief is warranted, absent evidence of willful conduct.

In the subject case, the court found that while the defendant had an obligation to preserve the fetal monitoring strips and failed to do so, it did not warrant the extreme sanction of striking the defendant’s answer. Thus, it denied the plaintiff’s motion.

Meet with a Trusted Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Healthcare providers have a duty to preserve their patient’s medical records, and when they do not, it may inhibit their patients’ ability to establish liability for medical malpractice. If you were hurt by incompetent medical care, you might be able to recover compensation, and you should meet with an attorney. The trusted Rochester medical malpractice lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers have ample experience establishing the liability of reckless physicians, and if you hire us, we will gather the evidence needed to help you seek a just result. You can reach us through our form online or by calling us at 585-653-7343 to set up a meeting.

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