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New York Court Discusses Standard for Granting Judgment as a Matter of Law in Medical Malpractice Cases

In cases involving obstetric malpractice, a plaintiff will typically exercise her right to a trial by jury. A jury trial allows a panel of the plaintiff’s peers, rather than a judge, to assess whether the defendant caused the plaintiff to suffer harm and if so, what damages the plaintiff should be awarded for the harm she suffered. While in many obstetric malpractice lawsuits trying a case in front of a jury results in an appropriate award of damages for the injured parties, that is not always the case. The law provides a remedy for verdicts that are clearly against the weight of the evidence, however, as illustrated in a recent New York case in which the court reversed the ruling where a jury failed to award damages despite finding the defendant obstetrician liable. If you or your child suffered harm due to obstetric errors, you should speak with a capable Rochester obstetric malpractice attorney in a timely manner to discuss your case and what compensation you may be able to recover.

The Plaintiff’s Treatment

Allegedly, the plaintiff fell when she was 37 weeks pregnant. She presented to the hospital that day, where she was treated by the defendant obstetrician. The defendant performed a sonogram and electronic fetal monitoring, which were normal. His notes indicated concerns regarding a delayed placental abruption, however, and he advised the plaintiff to follow up with her obstetrician. Two days later the plaintiff presented to the office of her regular doctor, the defendant obstetrician-gynecologist for monitoring.

Reportedly, the following day she experienced contractions and vomiting. She returned to the defendant’s office three days later and reported she was suffering abdominal pain. The defendant did not perform fetal monitoring. Two days later the plaintiff underwent an emergency cesarean section. The plaintiff’s child was extremely anemic at the time of her birth and suffered from cerebral palsy. She was unable to walk, use her arms, or feed herself and required constant care.

The Trial and Verdict

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants, alleging they breached the standard of good and accepted medical care by failing to diagnose and treat her injuries and prevent her child’s harm in a timely manner. Following a trial, the jury found that the defendants departed from the standard of care and that it caused the child’s harm but awarded no damages for the child’s pain and suffering or future lost earnings. The defendant and plaintiff both filed motions for judgment as a matter of law. The defendant filed a motion to set aside the verdict on the issue of liability and the plaintiff filed a motion to set aside the verdict as to the issue of damages. The court granted the defendant’s motion after which the plaintiff appealed.

The Standard for Granting Judgment as a Matter of Law

A judgment as a matter of law can only be granted when it is shown that there is no valid reasoning that would allow the jury to reach the verdict issued based on the evidence presented. A jury verdict should only be set aside as against the weight of the evidence where the evidence weighed so heavily in favor of the moving party that the verdict could not have been reached based upon a fair interpretation of the evidence. Here, the court found that the plaintiff set forth sufficient evidence to show that the defendants departed from the standard of care. Thus, the court found the jury’s failure to award any damages for pain and suffering and loss of earnings deviated materially from reasonable compensation in consideration of the evidence presented. As such, the court reversed the verdict as to damages and remitted for further proceedings.

Consult an Experienced Rochester Obstetric Malpractice Attorney

If you or your child suffered harm due to obstetric malpractice you should meet with an experienced Rochester obstetric malpractice attorney to discuss your case. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers our skilled obstetric malpractice attorneys will work diligently to help you recover any damages you or your child may be owed. You can contact us at 833-200-2000 or through our online form to schedule a free and confidential consultation.



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