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New York Court Discusses Summary Judgment in Medical Malpractice Cases

People who visit hospitals for critical conditions will often be cared for by multiple doctors. As such, if the care they receive is inadequate and they subsequently suffer harm, they may be able to pursue claims against everyone involved in their care. While it is not uncommon for numerous defendants to deny liability, they will most likely not be able to obtain judgment in their favor prior to trial unless they present clear and unrefuted evidence that they did not cause the plaintiff harm, as demonstrated in a recent New York opinion. If you suffered losses due to medical negligence, it is advisable to speak with a Rochester medical malpractice attorney about your possible claims.

Case Setting

It is alleged that the defendants treated the decedent in July and August of 2013. The plaintiff, acting as the administrator of the decedent’s estate, subsequently initiated a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant doctors and hospital in May  2016. Initially, the defendants moved to dismiss the claims as time-barred, which the court granted. The plaintiff appealed; while the appeal was pending, the defendants also sought summary judgment on the merits, which the court granted, dismissing the entire action.

It is reported that the court later reversed the dismissal, ruling that the statute of limitations was tolled due to the decedent’s death in August 2015. The defendants subsequently renewed their summary judgment motions, which were denied in May 2023, pending further discovery. Following additional depositions, the defendants again moved for summary judgment.

Summary Judgment in Medical Malpractice Cases

On review, the court noted that for medical malpractice claims, a defendant seeking summary judgment must show no deviation from accepted medical practices or that such deviations did not cause the plaintiff’s injuries.

As to the defendant doctor, the court noted he presented expert testimony claiming that his treatment met accepted standards and that he was not obligated to follow up with the patient after discharge. However, the court found that the expert’s opinions were conclusory and unsupported by the record, particularly regarding the doctor’s communication about the potential for cancer and the patient’s cognitive state.

Additionally, the plaintiff’s expert countered that the doctor failed to adequately communicate the need for follow-up testing and should have contacted the patient or his representative after discharge. As such, the court concluded that there were factual disputes regarding the standard of care and proximate causation, making summary judgment inappropriate for the defendant doctor.

As for the defendant hospital, the court noted that the hospital’s expert argued that the discharge instructions given to the patient were appropriate and met the standard of care. The hospital also contended it had no duty to provide follow-up care beyond advising the patient to see the doctor. The plaintiff’s expert contended that the hospital failed to ensure adequate communication with the patient and his representative about the potential cancer diagnosis and the need for follow-up care. The court found that there were unresolved issues of fact regarding the hospital’s role and responsibilities, particularly whether it should have communicated more clearly with the patient’s representative given the patient’s cognitive impairments. As such, the court denied summary judgment to the hospital as well.

Talk to a Skilled Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you were hurt by incompetent care in a hospital, you might be able to recover damages in a  medical malpracticelawsuit, and you should talk to a lawyer. The experienced Rochester medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can evaluate the facts of your case and craft compelling arguments on your behalf to help you seek any compensation you may be owed. You can contact us by calling 833-200-2000 or using our form online to arrange a conference.

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