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Court Rejects Agreement Limiting the Right to Pursue a Medical Malpractice Claim in a New York Case

People enter into contracts every day, including contracts promising not to sue in the event of harm. While a contract that is entered into voluntarily will typically be upheld by the court if a contract violates public policy it may be deemed unenforceable. This was illustrated in a recent case decided by a New York court, in which the court found that a contract that purported to govern a patient’s right to pursue a medical malpractice claim was void. If you were harmed by negligent medical care and wish to seek compensation from your care provider, you should meet with a capable Rochester medical malpractice attorney to discuss the facts of your case.

The Agreement Between the Parties

Allegedly, the defendant performed a laparoscopic hysterectomy on the plaintiff. During the surgery, the defendant pierced the plaintiff’s small intestine, resulting in severe and life-threatening complications. The plaintiff subsequently filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant. Prior to the surgery, the parties signed a contract referred to as Agreement as to Resolution of Concerns that was intended to limit the plaintiff’s right to pursue a medical malpractice claim against the defendant. To the extent the agreement permitted the plaintiff to file a malpractice lawsuit it affected how the lawsuit was to be handled. Specifically, the agreement prohibited the plaintiff from bringing a claim that was deemed meritless or frivolous based on the determination of a certain group, and if a claim was brought, limited the plaintiff’s use of experts. Following the filing of the lawsuit, the plaintiff filed a motion to have the agreement deemed unenforceable, arguing that it was unconscionable and contravened public policy.

Violation of Public Policy

The court noted that the public policy implications of an agreement between a doctor and a patient that limited the patient’s right to pursue a malpractice claim was an issue of first impression. The court notes that while parties are free to stipulate to a waiver of rights, an agreement that is clear an unambiguous will nonetheless be found invalid if it violates public policy by conflicting with an overriding public interest. To determine whether an agreement conflicts with a public interest the court will look at multiple factors, including legislative intent.

Upon reviewing the agreement, the court found that the provision limiting the plaintiff’s use of experts violated public policy, as the determination of whether an expert was qualified to opine on an issue is within the domain of the court. Further, the court noted that limiting a patient’s rights to pursue a malpractice claim violated the State’s interest in the health and welfare of its citizens and that to uphold such an agreement would violate public policy. Thus, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion.

Consult an Experienced Rochester Medical Malpractice Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you suffered an injury or illness due to inadequate medical care you have a right to pursue compensation from your care provider and you should consult an experienced Rochester medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case. The skilled Rochester medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers will work diligently to help you prove that your medical care provider should be held responsible for the full extent of your harm. You can contact us at 833-200-2000 or via the online form to schedule a meeting that is free and confidential.

More Blog Posts:

New York Court Discusses Spoliation of Evidence in Medical Malpractice Case, Rochester Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Blog, February 11, 2019



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