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New York Court Explains Grounds for Denying a Motion for Substitution in a Medical Malpractice Case

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people injured by negligent medical care to pass away while their claims against the practitioners that caused their harm are pending. Under New York law, however, their estates can proceed with their claims, provided they comply with the rules of procedure. If they do not, their right to recover damages may be waived, as demonstrated in a recent ruling issued in a New York medical malpractice case.  If you lost a loved one because of the incompetence of a doctor, you should speak to a  Rochester medical malpractice lawyer to discuss what claims you may be able to pursue.

History of the Case

It is reported that the decedent went into cardiac arrest during an intubation procedure performed by the defendant in 2010. The plaintiffs, the decedent’s co-guardians, commenced a medical malpractice action against the defendant in 2012. In 2013, due to the decedent’s death, the court imposed a stay. The decedent’s mother, one of the plaintiffs, sought and obtained voluntary administration of the decedent’s estate and letters testamentary.

Allegedly, in 2017, the plaintiffs filed a motion asking the court to lift the stay and to substitute the decedent’s mother, as the administrator of the decedent’s estate, as the plaintiff and for leave to file an amended complaint in which they would assert a wrongful death claim. In response, the defendant moved to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to move for substitution in a timely manner. The court denied the plaintiff’s motion and granted the defendant’s, and the plaintiff appealed.

Grounds for Denying a Motion for Substitution in a Medical Malpractice Case

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. The court explained that the applicable rules of civil procedure provide that a party’s representative or successor or any other party may move for substitution. If the impetus for the motion for substitution occurs before the final judgment, though, and substitution is not made within a reasonable time, the court may dismiss the action as to the party seeking the substitution.

The court explained that the dismissal might not be on the merits unless indicated by the court. If the event triggering the need for substitution is a party’s death and a timely substitution has not been made, the court may direct the people with an interest in the decedent’s estate to show why the action should not be dismissed. In evaluating whether the length of time it took a party to seek a substitution is reasonable, the court should consider the potential merit of the claims, prejudice to other parties, and the plaintiff’s diligence in seeking substitution. In the subject case, the court explained that the plaintiff’s three-year delay showed a lack of diligence, and they failed to show the potential merits of their claim. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Capable Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Medical malpractice can cause significant injuries that, tragically, may be insurmountable. If you suffered harm or lost someone you love due to the carelessness of a doctor, you may be owed compensation, and you should speak to a lawyer. The capable Rochester medical malpractice lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the full amount of compensation recoverable under the law. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 585-653-7343 to set up a meeting.

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