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New York Court Discusses Admissibility of Expert Reports in Medical Malpractice Cases

In most medical malpractice cases, the strength of each party’s position comes down to the credibility of their experts. Not only must a plaintiff’s expert set forth an opinion sufficient to establish the defendant’s liability, however, the expert must also demonstrate that he or she is sufficiently qualified to render such an opinion. In a recent surgical malpractice case determined by the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, New York, the court discussed the parameters for determining whether a plaintiff’s expert report is sufficient to avoid dismissal through summary judgment. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to a negligently performed surgery, you should speak with a diligent Rochester surgical malpractice attorney to discuss what claims you may be able to pursue.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff’s decedent underwent abdominal surgeries performed by the defendant physicians. The plaintiff then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants, arguing that the surgeries were negligently performed, which caused the decedent to suffer the injuries that led to her death. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court granted. The plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling.

Sufficiency of an Expert’s Qualifications and Report

On appeal, the court found that the defendants met burden imposed on them by establishing that they did not depart from the standard of care, or that their departure did not cause the decedent’s harm, by submitting an expert affidavit that was specific, detailed, and factual in nature, and refuted each of the claims set forth in the plaintiff’s bill of particulars. As the defendants met the burden of proving their compliance with the standard of care and the absence of liability for the plaintiff’s harm, the burden shifted from the defendant to the plaintiff to raise a triable issue of fact. In other words, the plaintiff was required to produce an expert affidavit that opined both that the defendants departed from the standard of care and that the departure caused the plaintiffs harm.

The court noted that the expert affidavit submitted by the plaintiff failed to state that the expert was licensed to practice medicine in New York, and therefore, the plaintiff failed to submit admissible evidence to establish a material issue of fact. The court clarified, however, that the plaintiff cured this defect by submitting a modified report containing the required information. Further, the court found that the trial court erred in determining that the plaintiff’s expert lacked the requisite training or skill needed for his opinion to be deemed reliable, noting that such factors spoke to the weight of the report rather than its admissibility. As such, the court reversed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Knowledgeable Rochester Malpractice Attorney

If you suffered damages due to an improperly performed surgical procedure, it is in your best interest to meet with a knowledgeable surgical malpractice attorney to discuss what evidence you will need to present a successful case. The trusted attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are proficient in establishing liability in medical malpractice cases, and we will work tirelessly to help you seek a just result. You can contact us via our form online or at 585-653-7343 to set up a conference.

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