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Court Reviews a Plaintiff’s Burden in Opposing Summary Judgment in a New York Medical Malpractice Case

In New York medical malpractice cases, the burden moves from the plaintiff to the defendant and then returns to the plaintiff. In other words,  case law established that if the defendant set forth prima facie evidence showing it was entitled to a dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim, the plaintiff was required to refute the defendant’s arguments by showing that the defendant deviated from the standard of care and that the deviation caused the plaintiff’s harm. Recently, however, the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, New York, analyzed the burden imposed on a plaintiff asserting medical malpractice claims and found it to be improper, in a case alleging cardiology malpractice. If you were injured by inadequate care rendered by a cardiologist, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced Rochester cardiology malpractice attorney regarding your potential claims.

Factual Background of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff’s decedent underwent heart surgery performed by the defendant cardiologist and received post-surgical care from the other named defendants. Following the decedent’s death, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim against the defendants. The defendants filed motions for summary judgment, which were granted in part and denied in part. The defendants whose motions were denied appealed.

Shifting Burdens in Medical Malpractice Cases

On appeal, the court noted that the case provided a good opportunity for the court to review whether the burden-shifting standard applied in medical malpractice cases was appropriate. The court stated that it was well-established that a defendant seeking dismissal via summary judgment in a medical malpractice case bears the burden of proving that he or she did not depart from the applicable standard of care, or that any departure did not harm the plaintiff. If the defendant meets this burden, however, the plaintiff must show both that the defendant deviated from the standard of care and that the deviation caused the plaintiff’s harm.

Upon reviewing the standard, the court found that the burden placed on a plaintiff opposing a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a medical malpractice case conflicted with the law that applied to summary judgment motions in general. As such, the court ruled that if a defendant files a motion for summary judgment, the burden imposed on the plaintiff is only to prove a triable issue of material fact on the elements of the case on which the defendant met the prima facie burden.

In the subject case, the court found that the trial court ruled improperly on two of the motions for summary judgment presented. On the third movement, however, the court affirmed the trial court ruling, finding that as the defendant did not address the issue of proximate cause, the plaintiff was not required to do so in her reply in opposition to the motion.

Meet with a Seasoned Malpractice Attorney

If you sustained harm due to a negligent cardiologist, it is wise to meet with a seasoned Rochester cardiology malpractice attorney to discuss what you must prove to recover damages. The diligent attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers will craft effective arguments on your behalf, to help you seek the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. You can reach us via our form online or at 585-653-7343 to set up a confidential and free conference.

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