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Court Explains Immunity Under the Federal Tort Claims Act in a Birth Injury Case in New York

Many hospitals and care facilities throughout New York are federally funded. Typically, healthcare practitioners employed by such centers are immune from liability for medical malpractice, and a plaintiff seeking damages for the harm caused by a doctor must proceed solely against the federal government. In a recent New York opinion, a court discussed claims against doctors employed by federal facilities in a case in which the plaintiff suffered the loss of her infant at birth due to the negligence of the defendant doctor. If your child was hurt at birth, it is advisable to speak to a Rochester birth injury attorney to discuss your rights.

The Alleged Harm

Reportedly, the plaintiff received care from the defendant doctor at the defendant hospital during her pregnancy. The defendant was paid directly by the hospital and also received compensation from his patients for services rendered at the hospital. The plaintiff ultimately went to the hospital to deliver her son, who tragically died at birth. She then filed a lawsuit against the defendants, arguing their negligence caused her child’s death. The defendant doctor removed the case to federal court and asked that the federal government be substituted as the defendant, arguing he was immune under federal statutes, as he was employed by a federal facility. The federal government disagreed, however, and the court sided with the government, remanding the matter to state court.

Claims Against Doctors Employed in Federal Facilities

Under the applicable law, employees of a federal medical facility are entitled to immunity. Specifically, the sole remedy for personal harm resulting from medical malpractice of a doctor acting in the scope of his employment while working for a federally funded hospital is prescribed by the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Pursuant to the FTCA, the law of the place governs the analysis of whether a person was working under the scope of his employment at the time of an alleged incident and is therefore entitled to immunity. As such, New York law applied in the subject case.

In New York, there are multiple factors assessed in determining whether a person is acting in the scope of his employment, including the connection between the time and place of the act, the history of the relationship between the employee and employer, whether the act in question was one the employer could have anticipated, and whether the acts benefitted the employer. Here, the court found that the defendant doctor was acting within the scope of his employment and that the payment scheme benefitted the defendant hospital. The court was not persuaded that the FTCA should be permitted to alter the New York scope of employment analysis. Thus, the trial court ruling was reversed.

Meet with a Skillful Malpractice Attorney

Losing a child at birth is an unspeakable tragedy, and doctors that are responsible for stillbirths and other harm should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. If your child was hurt during delivery because of the incompetence of a healthcare provider, you should meet with a lawyer to determine whether you may be able to pursue a birth injury claim. The skillful medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are dedicated to helping people harmed by medical negligence in the pursuit of justice, and we will diligently seek any damages you may be owed. You can contact us at 585-653-7343 or through our form online to schedule a consultation.

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