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New York Court Affirms Dismissal of Malpractice Case Due to Inadequate Expert Affidavit

In New York, it is well established that a patient harmed by incompetent medical care must meet a specific burden of proof to recover damages. In other words, a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case must produce evidence that is sufficient to show that a doctor failed to comply with the accepted practice of medicine. The plaintiff also has to prove that the failure directly caused the plaintiff’s harm. Usually, this is accomplished via expert reports. Even if a plaintiff produces an affidavit from an expert, though, it still may not be sufficient to demonstrate liability. This was illustrated in a recent ruling in an emergency room malpractice case in which the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed due to an inadequate expert report. If you suffered harm because of the neglectful care you received in an emergency room, it is smart to speak to a skillful Rochester emergency room malpractice attorney to assess your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff’s decedent visited the emergency department of the defendant hospital, where he was treated by the defendant doctors. The reason the decedent sought medical treatment was not disclosed, but he ultimately lost his life while at the hospital. The plaintiff then commenced a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants, alleging that their failure to provide the decedent with competent care led to his demise. The defendants moved to have the plaintiff’s claims dismissed via summary judgment, and in support of their motion, produced an expert affidavit. The plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the defendants’ motion and set forth her own expert affidavit. The court found the plaintiff’s affidavit lacking and granted the defendants’ motion. The plaintiff then filed an appeal.

Conflicting Expert Reports in Medical Malpractice Cases

On appeal, the court explained that a plaintiff in a medical malpractice action must produce proof that the defendant doctor deviated from the standards of practice that are accepted in the community and that the departure proximately caused the plaintiff’s harm. Therefore, a defendant moving for summary judgment must establish that the evidence, when taken at face value, does not show a departure from the standard of care or that any departure that occurred did not lead to the plaintiff’s losses.

If a defendant makes such a showing, then the plaintiff is required to produce materials or facts to rebut the defendant’s showing, to demonstrate that a factual dispute exists that requires a trial. While conflicting expert affidavits may raise questions that can only be resolved by a judge or jury, opinions that are not supported by evidence of record or are conclusory or speculative will not demonstrate a triable factual dispute. In order for a plaintiff’s expert affidavit to be sufficient, therefore, it must address each of the assertions set forth by the defendant’s expert.

In the subject case, the court noted that the defendants’ expert affidavit opined that the defendants did not depart from the standard of care. The plaintiff’s expert affidavit, however, did not address the assertions in the defendants’ expert’s report. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Dedicated Malpractice Attorney in Rochester

Emergency room doctors are obligated to provide competent care, and if they do not, it can lead to devastating injuries. If you or a loved one were hurt by emergency room malpractice, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney regarding what you must prove to recover damages. The medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are dedicated to helping injured parties pursue compensation, and if you hire us, we will work diligently to help you seek just results. You can reach us at 585-653-7343 or via the online form to set up a conference.

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