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New York Court Discusses Sufficiency of Expert Opinions in Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice cases are very fact-specific, and demonstrating liability requires an intricate understanding of the law and applicable medical standards. As such, even if it seems that a doctor clearly caused a patient to suffer harm, the patient must produce competent expert evidence to support their claims, otherwise, they may be dismissed. This was demonstrated recently in a ruling set forth by a New York court in a gynecological malpractice case, in which the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims on the grounds that her expert opinion was insufficient. If you were harmed by a routine gynecological procedure, it is smart to speak to a Rochester medical malpractice lawyer to determine your rights.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

Allegedly, the defendant performed a myomectomy on the plaintiff to remove uterine fibroids. During the surgery, the plaintiff suffered a second-degree burn due to an electrocautery device. She subsequently filed a medical malpractice complaint against the defendant, alleging the defendant’s negligence caused her harm. The defendant requested dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims via a motion for summary judgment. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Sufficiency of Expert Opinions in Medical Malpractice Cases

The salient issue on appeal was whether the plaintiff’s expert report was adequate to defeat the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The appellate court ultimately determined that it was not and affirmed the trial court ruling. The court explained the well-established rule that if a defendant seeks dismissal through a motion for summary judgment, they bear the burden of establishing the lack of a departure from the accepted and good practice of medicine or that the plaintiff did not suffer harm due to any alleged departure.

If the defendant meets this burden, the plaintiff must then show that a triable issue of fact exists as to the elements on which the defendant met their prima facie burden. Conclusory allegations that the defendant committed malpractice, though, are insufficient to defeat a defendant’s motion. In order to not be considered speculative, an expert opinion should address each of the assertions set forth by the defendant’s expert and cite to specific evidence in the record.

Further, if a doctor opines outside of their area of specialty, they must lay a foundation to show that their opinion is reliable. If no such foundation is offered, their opinion will have no probative value. In the subject case, the court noted that the plaintiff’s expert was a psychiatrist by trade, and the plaintiff failed to offer any explanation as to why he was qualified to offer an opinion on the standard of care that applies to gynecologists. Thus, his opinion lacked probative value, and the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Gynecologists routinely perform procedures without issue, but if they become careless, they can make mistakes that lead to significant harm and may be liable for gynecological malpractice. If you sustained losses due to the recklessness of a doctor, you should meet with a lawyer to assess your options. The experienced Rochester medical malpractice lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers possess the knowledge and experience needed to handle complicated cases, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly to help you seek a just outcome. You can reach us by calling 585-653-7343 or using our online form to set up a meeting.

 

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