In cases where the issues presented are a beyond the scope of understanding of the average person, one or both parties will introduce experts to offer opinions on disputed facts and theories of liability. For example, the vast majority of medical malpractice cases require one or more experts to opine that the medical provider in question breached the standard of care and the breach resulted in the subsequent harm.
Recently, in a case applying New York law, the District Court for the Northern District of New York held that the expert report provided by the plaintiff in a medical malpractice case was sufficient to allow the case to proceed, despite the defendants’ arguments to the contrary. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to inadequate care or a missed diagnosis, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced Rochester medical malpractice attorney to assist you in your pursuit of damages from the negligent providers.
Facts Surrounding the Patient’s Care and Subsequent Death
Reportedly, the patient complained of chest pains and lost consciousness, after which he was transported to the defendant hospital’s emergency department. The defendant doctor, who worked in the emergency department, examined the patient physically, monitored his vital signs and ordered various tests. The defendant doctor ultimately diagnosed the patient with vasovagal syncope, dehydration, reactive airway disease and wheezing. He prescribed the patient medication and saline and discharged the patient. Additionally, the defendant doctor referred the patient to a clinic for a follow-up appointment where he would be re-evaluated and directed him to go to the follow-up appointment two to four days.
It is alleged that the patient did not go to the follow-up appointment, but went to an urgent care facility the following month. Three months after his initial visit to the emergency department, the patient died of a heart attack. The plaintiff, the patient’s mother, filed a lawsuit alleging the defendant doctor and hospital committed medical malpractice and that her son died as a result. Following discovery, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s expert’s report was deficient and therefore, the claims against them should be dismissed.
Plaintiff’s Expert Report
Under New York law, a plaintiff alleging medical malpractice must provide expert medical evidence that the standard of care was breached, and the breach caused the subsequent harm unless the malpractice is so clear that such evidence is not necessary. Here, the plaintiff’s expert report opined that the defendant doctor did not meet the standard of care due to a failure to develop a differential diagnosis or consider other possible causes of the patient’s symptoms. Further, the report stated that the defendant doctor should have considered acute coronary syndrome as a diagnosis, and the failure to do so directly resulted in the patient’s death. The expert’s opinion was based on a review of medical records, deposition transcripts, and the autopsy report.
The defendants did not dispute that the expert was qualified but argued that his report was deficient because it included hypothetical ways in which the defendant doctor could have met the standard of care, including referring the patient to a cardiologist. The defendant argued that he complied with this standard by referring the patient to the clinic. The court found, however, that the hypothetical did not change the expert’s ultimate opinion that the defendant doctor breached the standard of care by not considering whether the patient had acute coronary syndrome. The court also rejected the defendant doctor’s argument that expert’s conclusion regarding proximate cause was speculative. The court noted that the report sufficiently opined that the patient’s death was caused by an inaccurate diagnosis. As such, the court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer
An improper or missed diagnosis can result in significant harm and sometimes death. If you or a loved one sustained harm due to a missed diagnosis you should meet with an experienced Rochester medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, our seasoned Rochester medical malpractice attorneys will work diligently to provide you with a strong chance of recovering any damages you may be owed. Contact us at 315-479-9000 or through our online form to schedule a free and confidential meeting.
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