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New York Court Discusses Penalties for Failing to File Certificate of Merit in Medical Malpractice Cases

People harmed by incompetent medical care often pursue damages via malpractice claims, but not all harm suffered by patients necessarily constitutes grounds for a lawsuit. To avoid frivolous cases, plaintiffs must meet certain pleading requirements to establish the validity of their claims, and if they do not, their cases may be adversely impacted. The potential consequences of failing to abide by procedural rules were demonstrated in a recent New York ruling in a hospital malpractice case in which the court ultimately permitted the plaintiff to proceed despite pleading errors. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to negligent care in a hospital, it is in your best interest to speak to a Rochester medical malpractice attorney about your options.

The Procedural History

It is reported that the plaintiff’s decedent, who had a history of mental illness, climbed to the edge of the roof of his building with the intent of ending his life via suicide. Police officers encouraged him to come down and transported him to the defendant hospital. He was discharged the following day, and one day after that, he died due to suicide. The plaintiff, the decedent’s mother, filed a lawsuit against the defendant, arguing their negligent failure to treat the decedent led to his death.

Allegedly, instead of attaching a certificate of merit to the complaint as required under the New York rules of procedure, the plaintiff’s attorney filed a certificate of counsel stating he was unable to consult a doctor prior to filing a complaint. The plaintiff then failed to file a certificate of merit within 90 days but moved to seek to leave to file a late notice of a claim two years later, at which point the defendant filed a motion to dismiss. The court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed.

Proving a Medical Malpractice Action has Merit

Under New York law, a medical malpractice complaint must be accompanied by a certificate completed by the plaintiff’s attorney that states either that the attorney consulted with a physician who has knowledge relevant to the underlying claims and that based on that consultation, the attorney believes there is a reasonable basis to pursue the action, or that the attorney was unable to obtain a consultation within the time required to file the complaint. If the attorney is unable to file a certificate of merit with the complaint, one must be filed within 90 days after the complaint is served.

Contrary to prevailing case law, the court stated that if the legislature intended to allow for dismissal for the failure to comply with the applicable statute, it would have provided the court with the power to take such action. Thus, the court overruled prior case law authorizing dismissal for the failure to comply with the certification requirements and affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Skillful Rochester Malpractice Attorney

Inadequate care rendered in a hospital can cause serious harm, and tragically, in some cases, injuries brought about by negligent treatment are fatal.  If you lost a loved one due to hospital malpractice, you could be owed damages, and you should speak to an attorney. The skillful Rochester medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers possess the knowledge and experience needed to help you seek a favorable outcome, and we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us via our form online or at 833-247-8427 to set up a conference.

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