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New York Court Discusses Collateral Estoppel in Medical Malpractice Cases

Usually, medical malpractice cases arise out of harm caused by careless behavior. In some instances, however, a patient will suffer damages due to a physician’s acts that are not only intentional but also constitute criminal behavior. In such matters, the injured party may be able to establish negligence as a matter of law without the use of an expert. Recently, a New York court issued an opinion in which it discussed the plaintiff’s burden of proof in a case that involved a defendant convicted of a crime for the same acts that the plaintiff alleged constituted malpractice. If you sustained losses due to the harmful acts of a doctor, it is advisable to meet with a knowledgeable Rochester medical malpractice lawyer to assess your potential claims.

Background of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant, who was a psychiatrist, treated the plaintiff for unspecified mental health issues. During the course of the treatment, the defendant engaged in sexual activity with the plaintiff. As a result, he was arrested and charged with rape and other crimes. A jury ultimately convicted him, and he was sentenced to three years in prison. The plaintiff then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, alleging his actions constituted a departure from the standard of care, which caused the plaintiff to suffer harm. The plaintiff then moved for summary judgment. The court granted the motion, and the defendant appealed.

Collateral Estoppel in Medical Malpractice Cases

Under New York law, collateral estoppel prohibits a party from relitigating an issue in a case that was resolved against the party in a prior proceeding where the party had a fair and full opportunity to contest the determination. The court explained that where a criminal conviction is based on facts identical to those at issue in a related civil matter, the plaintiff in the civil case can assert the doctrine of collateral estoppel to bar the convicted defendant from re-arguing the issue of his or her liability.

The court elaborated that the party arguing that collateral estoppel should apply must prove that the identical issue was decided in the prior proceeding and is decisive in the current case. A party opposing the application of the doctrine must show that it did not have a fair opportunity to litigate the issue in question. In the subject case, the defendant did not argue that he did not have the chance to contest the determination in the criminal matter. Instead, he merely argued that the issues in the civil and criminal cases were not the same. The court disagreed, finding that the actions out of which the defendant’s convictions arose were the same as those that the civil action was based upon. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Meet with a Dedicated Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Rochester

Doctors take an oath not to harm their patients, but some physicians nonetheless engage in intentional acts that cause significant harm. If you were injured by incompetent care, you should speak to an attorney about whether you may be able to pursue medical malpractice claims. The dedicated Rochester medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can inform you of your options and aid you in the pursuit of a just outcome. You can reach us via our online form or at 585-653-7343 to set up a meeting.

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