It is not uncommon for a plaintiff who is pursuing damages due to medical malpractice to die following the institution of the lawsuit. Thus, in many cases, the need arises to substitute the administrator of the deceased plaintiff’s estate as a party in the lawsuit. Any substitution must be made in a timely manner, however, or the court may dismiss the claim in its entirety. In a recent hospital malpractice case, the appellate division of the Supreme Court of New York discussed the factors weighed in determining if an untimely motion to substitute should be granted. If you or someone you love suffered harm due to hospital malpractice, it is wise to consult a dedicated Rochester hospital malpractice attorney to discuss your potential claims.
Procedural Background of the Case
It is alleged that the plaintiffs, a mother and infant son, filed a malpractice lawsuit against the defendant hospital due to harm sustained by the plaintiff son. The plaintiff son subsequently died from his injuries, and the plaintiffs filed a motion to substitute the plaintiff son’s father, who was the administrator of the estate, as a plaintiff in place of the son, and to amend the caption. Further, the plaintiffs sought to amend the complaint to assert a wrongful death claim.
Reportedly, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff’s motion to substitute was untimely. The court granted the defendant’s motion and dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint in its entirety. The plaintiffs appealed.
Factors Weighed in Determining Whether to Grant a Motion to Substitute
As an initial matter, the appellate court noted the trial court erred in dismissing the plaintiffs’ complaint in whole, as there was no basis for dismissing the plaintiff mother’s claims. The court went on to state that New York law requires a motion to substitute a party to be made within a reasonable time. Whether a party’s timing is reasonable depends on numerous factors, including the party’s diligence, whether the party seeking a substitution has shown the potential merit of its position, and whether allowing the substitution would prejudice the other party.
In the subject case, the court found that although the plaintiffs admitted to an extensive delay in seeking substitution of the father as a party, they established that the defendants did not suffer prejudice as a result of the delay. Specifically, the defendants had notice of the claims against them eight years prior and had all of the relevant medical records. Conversely, in opposing the motion to substitute, the defendants merely set forth blanket claims of prejudice that were based solely on the amount of time that had passed.
Further, the plaintiffs had ample evidence of the potential merit of their claims. Thus, the court found that in light of the strong policy in favor of deciding a claim on the merits, the plaintiffs should be permitted to proceed with the substitution, and reversed the trial court ruling.
Speak with a Skillful Rochester Attorney
If you or a loved one sustained injuries due to hospital malpractice, it is important to speak with a skillful Rochester hospital malpractice attorney in a timely manner to avoid waiving your right to recover damages. The diligent medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are proficient at navigating the New York court system and will zealously pursue any compensation you may be owed for your harm. We can be reached at 585-653-7343 or through the form online to set up a free and confidential conference to discuss your case.