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New York Court Discusses Duties Imposed on Doctors in a Medical Malpractice Case

Doctors owe their patients a duty to provide the care expected of a reasonable practitioner working in the same specialty. They are not, however, typically expected to render treatment that exceeds the scope of their practice area. This was demonstrated in a recent New York opinion, in which the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against a doctor specializing in pulmonology. If you sustained damages due to the careless acts of a physician, it is smart to meet with a dedicated Rochester medical malpractice lawyer to assess your rights.

The Plaintiff’s Allegations

It is alleged that the plaintiff visited the emergency room of the defendant hospital with complaints of intermittent high fevers and flu-like symptoms. An infectious disease doctor determined he was suffering from a viral illness of dengue fever but that it was unlikely he was suffering from malaria. He was admitted to intensive care, where he was treated by the defendant pulmonologist. Following a course of antibiotics and steroids, he was discharged. He received flu and pneumonia vaccines prior to discharge.

Reportedly, he visited the emergency department of another hospital a few weeks later with complaints of dizziness, where he was diagnosed with malaria. He was treated and discharged but returned ten days later and was diagnosed with Guillian-Barre syndrome. He then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants, alleging they were negligent in failing to diagnose him with malaria and for administering the flu shot. The defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims.

Duties Imposed on Physicians

The court noted that a defendant seeking summary judgment in a medical malpractice action must establish, prima facie, that there was either no departure from the relevant standard of care or that any departure did not cause the plaintiff’s alleged harm. The plaintiff must then show that a triable issue of fact exists with regard to the elements to which the defendant met its burden of proof.

The court explained that while summary judgment is usually not appropriate in cases involving conflicting expert reports when a report is conclusory or speculative, it does not demonstrate a factual dispute. In the subject case, the court found that the defendants met their initial burden of proof. While the plaintiff set forth an affidavit in opposition of the defendants’ motion, it placed the blame on the failure to diagnose the plaintiff with malaria on the defendant pulmonologist. The court explained that his duties were limited to those of a pulmonologist and did not extend to the diagnosis or treatment of malaria. With regard to the vaccines, the plaintiff failed to refute the allegations set forth in the defendant’s expert report. Thus, the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed.

Confer with a Knowledgeable Malpractice Attorney in Rochester

Respiratory issues can cause lasting harm if they are not properly identified and treated, and doctors that fail to provide patients with competent care may be liable for pulmonology malpractice. If you suffered harm because of a careless pulmonologist, you should speak to a lawyer about your possible claims. The knowledgeable Rochester medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers are adept at helping people seek compensation for their losses, and if you hire us, we will zealously pursue any damages you may be owed. You can reach us through our form online or at 585-653-7343 to schedule a consultation.

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