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New York Court Discusses Liability of Hospitals and Residents for Surgical Errors

In many instances, determining who may be liable for harm caused by negligent medical care may be unexpectedly complicated. For example, even if multiple physicians improperly perform a surgical procedure in a hospital, whether each physician or the hospital may be held liable depends on numerous factors. This was discussed in a recent New York ophthalmology malpractice case, in which the court determined that neither a resident that took part in a negligently performed surgery nor the hospital where it was performed could be held liable for the plaintiff’s alleged harm. If you were injured by negligent care provided by an ophthalmologist, it is in your best interest to speak with a vigilant Rochester ophthalmology malpractice attorney regarding who may be liable for your harm.

History of the Case

Allegedly, the plaintiff treated at the defendant hospital in June 2013, where he underwent a surgical procedure to remove cataracts. The surgery was performed by the defendant attending physician, with the assistance of the defendant resident. The plaintiff ultimately filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, alleging the surgery was improperly performed, resulting in an occlusion of his central retinal vein. The defendant hospital and defendant resident filed motions for summary judgment, which the court granted. The plaintiff appealed.

Liability of Residents and Hospitals for Medical Errors

Under New York law, a resident who does not exercise independent medical judgment but merely assists a doctor during a procedure, cannot be held liable for any medical malpractice that occurs during the procedure. There is an exception, however, for cases in which the doctor’s guidance so drastically departed from normal practice that the resident should be held accountable for failing to intervene. In the subject case, the court noted that both the testimony of the parties and the medical records established that the defendant physician had complete control over the diagnosis of the plaintiff and the surgery, including the surgical approach. Further, the defendants demonstrated that the defendant physician did not so greatly depart from the standard of care so as to require the defendant resident to intervene.

Regarding the hospital, the court explained that a hospital cannot be held vicariously liable for malpractice committed by a private physician that is not an employee of the hospital. Further, the hospital may not be held vicariously liable for injuries that arise of out the acts of an employee, such as a resident, when the employee is merely carrying out the orders of the private attending physician. In the subject case, although the resident was an employee, he was merely carrying out the orders of the attending physician, who was a private doctor and was not employed by the hospital. Thus, based on the foregoing, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Capable Rochester Malpractice Attorney

If you suffered an injury due to inadequate treatment by an ophthalmologist, it is wise to meet with a capable Rochester ophthalmology malpractice attorney to discuss what compensation you may be able to seek via a lawsuit. The seasoned attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are skilled at aiding people harmed by medical malpractice pursue recourse for their injuries and will gather any evidence in support of your claims. We can be contacted via our online form or at 585-653-7343 to schedule a free and confidential meeting.

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