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New York Court Discusses Resident Liability in Medical Malpractice Cases

Teaching hospitals often offer patients the most advanced care and cutting-edge treatments. In most teaching hospitals, residents provide care to patients, under the supervision of attending physicians. If a patient cared for by a resident subsequently suffers harm, it can be difficult to establish that the resident should be liable for medical malpractice, as discussed in a recent opinion delivered in a New York medical malpractice case. If you were harmed during a procedure performed by a resident, it is worthwhile to meet with a Rochester medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural Setting

Allegedly, the plaintiff underwent a pediatric scoliosis surgery, that included a procedure known as a facetectomy. The defendant resident, who was in his fourth year of residency, performed the procedure under the supervision of the defendant doctor, who was employed by the defendant hospital and had privileges at the defendant health system.

It is reported that the plaintiff subsequently suffered a spinal cord injury, after which she filed a medical malpractice complaint against the defendants. The defendants moved for summary judgment, but the court denied their motion. They then appealed.

Resident Liability in Medical Malpractice Cases

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling as to the defendant resident and defendant health system. In doing so, the court explained that under New York law, a medical resident assisting a doctor during a medical procedure, without exercising independent medical reasoning, cannot be held liable for malpractice unless the attending physician’s directions greatly deviate from normal practice.

In this case, the court found that the defendant resident did not exercise independent medical judgment during the surgery, as the defendant doctor directly supervised him and determined the surgical procedure. As such, the court held that the resident could not be held directly liable plaintiff’s alleged harm and the defendant health system was not liable for the defendant resident’s act.

Further, the court noted that hospitals generally cannot be held vicariously liable for the malpractice of private attending physicians who are not employees, unless there is apparent agency. The court found that there was no evidence to support the theory of apparent agency in the subject case, however. Consequently, the court granted the defendant health system’s motion to dismiss the complaint against them entirely.

Finally, the court held that the plaintiff abandoned certain claims against the defendant doctor and defendant hospital, as they were not addressed by the plaintiff’s expert in opposition to the defendants’ motions for summary judgment. Therefore, the court granted summary judgment in their favor regarding these claims.

Meet with a Skilled Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

All healthcare providers are obliged to provide their patients with competent care, and if they offer substandard treatment, harming their patients, they may be liable for medical malpractice. If you suffered injuries due to the carelessness of a physician, it is sensible to discuss your case with an attorney. The skilled Rochester medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can inform you of your potential claims and assist you in seeking any damages you may be owed. You can contact us by calling 833-200-2000 or using our form online to arrange a meeting.

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