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New York Court Discusses the Enforceability of Forum Selection Clauses in Medical Malpractice Cases

Generally, a party pursuing medical malpractice claims in New York has the right to decide where to file their lawsuit, and the courts will generally defer to their choice of venue. There are exceptions, however, such as when the plaintiff and defendant entered into a contract that dictates where any disputes will be heard. In a ruling recently issued in a medical malpractice and wrongful death case, a New York court examined the enforceability of forum selection clauses. If you lost a loved one due to incompetent medical care, it is wise to speak to a Rochester medical malpractice lawyer to determine your potential causes of action.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that the negligent care rendered by the defendant caused his father’s death. The plaintiff filed the lawsuit in Bronx County, where he lived. The defendant moved to change the venue to Westchester County based on an admission agreement reportedly signed by the decedent’s wife when the decedent entered the defendant’s facility. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Enforceability of Forum Selection Clauses

The appellate court ultimately reversed the trial court ruling. The court explained that parties to a contract have the right to choose what forum will hear any disputes that may arise over the performance or interpretation of the contract. Forum selection clauses are prima facie valid and will be enforced unless they are shown to be unreasonable.

In the subject case, the plaintiff alleged that the party that seeks to enforce an agreement that contains a forum selection clause must first establish the existence and terms of the contract in question. Here, the court found that the plaintiff’s challenge as to the authenticity of the contract, which he raised for the first time on appeal, was not properly before the court.

The plaintiff also argued that the agreement was not enforceable against him or the decedent, as neither of them signed it. The court agreed, stating that while forum selection clauses are presumed to be valid and enforceable, that is only true with respect to the parties to the contract. In other words, only parties in privity of contract may enforce the terms of the contract, like a forum selection clause, and such clauses may not be enforced against a nonsignatory, absent some exception. As no exception applied in the subject case, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s order and remanded the case back to Bronx County.

Meet with a Trusted Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

People who suffer losses due to the negligence of healthcare providers generally have the right to pursue medical malpractice claims in the forum of their choosing, with few exceptions. If you sustained harm due to a reckless physician, it is in your best interest to consult an attorney. The trusted Rochester medical malpractice lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your rights and help you to pursue any compensation recoverable under the law.  You can contact us via our online form or by calling 833-200-2000 to set up a conference.

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