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Court Explains the Shifting Burdens of Proof in New York Medical Malpractice Cases

Doctors accused of committing medical malpractice rarely admit their liability. Rather, in many malpractice cases, the defendant will argue that there is no evidence that they are at fault for the plaintiff’s alleged harm, and therefore, the case should be dismissed via summary judgment prior to trial. Recently, a New York court discussed the burden of proof imposed on each party in a medical malpractice case with regard to summary judgment, in a matter in which it ultimately denied the defendant’s motion. If you were hurt by the carelessness of a health care provider, you might be able to cover compensation for your harm, and it is in your best interest to speak to a Rochester medical malpractice lawyer about your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff underwent a surgical procedure on her right leg at the defendant hospital on August 7, 2014. She returned four days later with complaints of leg pain and ultimately underwent an above the knee amputation of her right leg. She proceeded to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that it committed numerous errors that resulted in the loss of her leg. Following discovery, the defendant moved to have the plaintiff’s claims dismissed via summary judgment. The court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed.

The Shifting Burdens of Proof in Medical Malpractice Cases

To establish a physician’s culpability for medical malpractice, a plaintiff must show that the physician deviated or diverged from established community standards of practice and that this deviation was a direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.   Thus, a defendant moving for dismissal via summary judgment in a medical malpractice case defendant must prove, prima facie, that it did not depart from the standard or that any departure did not proximately cause the plaintiff’s harm. Once a defendant establishes this prima facie showing, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving the existence of a triable issue of fact, but only as to the factors on which the defendant has met its burden.

In the subject case, the court explained that while the defendant adequately demonstrated that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law via the submission of the plaintiff’s medical records and its expert reports and affidavits, the plaintiff’s expert report and testimony established that there was a triable issue of fact. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Confer with an Experienced Rochester Attorney

Doctors have a duty to provide their patients with competent care, and if they do not, they should be deemed responsible for any damages their patients sustain as a result of their carelessness. If you incurred losses due to insufficient medical treatment, it is advisable to confer with an attorney regarding your potential claims. The experienced Rochester medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your rights and aid you in seeking the full extent of damages recoverable under the law. You can contact us via our form online by calling us at 585-653-7343 to set up a meeting.

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