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New York Court Analyzes Grounds for Vacating a Dismissal of a Hospital Malpractice Case

When a plaintiff harmed by medical negligence pursues claims for damages via a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff’s compliance with the laws of procedure is arguably almost as important as the merits of the plaintiff’s case. In other words, if a plaintiff fails to abide by the rules imposed by the law or the courts, it can result in a dismissal of otherwise valid claims. Recently, a New York appellate court discussed what a plaintiff seeking to vacate an order dismissing a hospital malpractice case due to the failure comply with procedural rules must demonstrate in order to obtain a favorable result. If you or a loved one sustained damages due to incompetent care in a hospital, it is advisable to consult a capable Rochester hospital malpractice attorney to discuss whether you may be able to assert a claim for damages.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff’s decedent died from sepsis after she was released from the defendant hospital. Thus, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant hospital and the defendant treating physician who cared for the decedent while she was admitted to the defendant hospital. After discovery was complete, the defendants each moved to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed via summary judgment. The court then issued an order setting forth when the plaintiff was required to serve her opposition to the motions upon the defendants, when the defendants were required to file any replies, and when oral argument would be held.

Reportedly, however, the parties stipulated that the plaintiff’s opposition could be filed at a later date. As such, the plaintiff did not file her opposition by the court-imposed deadline. The plaintiff did not seek an adjournment in person until the day the defendants’ replies were due, but the court denied her request and granted the defendants’ motions as unopposed. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the order granting the defendants’ motions. The court denied the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Grounds for Vacating a Dismissal of a Medical Malpractice Case

Under New York law, a party that seeks to vacate an order granted due to the party’s failure to oppose a motion must show that both a reasonable cause exists for the failure to appear and that he or she had potentially valid grounds to oppose the motion. The assessment of whether an excuse for failing to oppose a motion is reasonable is within the discretion of the court. Generally, however, the court should consider factors such as the length of the delay, whether the failure to oppose was willful, and whether it caused prejudice to the opposing party.

In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff’s assertion that she relied on the advice of her attorney in failing to file the oppositions on the date they were due was reasonable. Further, the court stated that while the plaintiff’s request for an adjournment was untimely, it complied with the rules that required a party seeking an adjournment in a medical malpractice case to request an adjournment in person, and therefore the trial court should have granted at least a brief adjournment. Thus, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion.

Confer with a Proficient Rochester Attorney

If you suffered injuries or the loss of a loved one due to negligent medical care in a hospital, you should confer with a proficient Rochester hospital malpractice attorney regarding your potential claims. The attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are dedicated to helping victims of medical malpractice seek justice for their harm, and we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us at 585-653-7343 or via the form online to schedule a confidential and free meeting.

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