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

It is not uncommon for a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case to pass away prior to the resolution of the case. A plaintiff’s claims are not extinguished merely because a plaintiff dies, however. Instead, the plaintiff’s estate generally has the right to pursue claims on behalf of the plaintiff’s beneficiaries and can substitute another party as the plaintiff. It is important for interested parties to act promptly following a plaintiff’s death, however, as a delay can result in a dismissal of the claims altogether, as demonstrated in a recent hospital malpractice case. If you or a loved one sustained injuries due to negligent care in a hospital, it is wise to speak to a trusted Rochester hospital malpractice attorney regarding what claims you may be able to pursue.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, in 2005 the plaintiff’s decedent, who had Stage IV lung cancer, was admitted to the defendant hospital after she fell out of her wheelchair and struck her head. During her admission she was administered an excessive amount of Dilaudid, which the plaintiff averred lead to the decedent’s death. In 2007, the plaintiff, who was the decedent’s husband and the administrator of her estate, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant. In 2011, the case was marked disposed of due to the plaintiff’s failure to file a note of issue, and in 2013, the plaintiff died.

It is reported that in 2017, the plaintiff’s attorney advised the defendant’s attorney that the plaintiff died. The defendant then moved to dismiss the complaint due to the plaintiff’s failure to substitute a new plaintiff, and the plaintiff’s attorney filed a cross-motion to substitute the administrator of the plaintiff’s estate as the new plaintiff. The court granted the defendant’s motion and denied the plaintiff’s, after which the plaintiff appealed.

Grounds for Denying a Motion for Substitution

Pursuant to New York law, when an event occurs that requires the substitute of a party, the party seeking a substitution must act within a reasonable time, otherwise, the claims of the party for whom substitution should be made may be dismissed. In assessing what constitutes a reasonable amount of time, the court will evaluate the diligence of the party seeking substitution, whether the action has potential merit, and whether other parties suffered any prejudice. The court noted, however, that even if the party seeking substitution does not have a reasonable explanation for its delay, substitution may be granted where there is no prejudice.

In the subject case, the court noted that the delay in seeking a substitution was over four years, which reflected a lack of diligence in pursuing the claim. Further, the court found that the defendants suffered actual prejudice, due to the fact that many of the decedent’s medical records were no longer available. As such, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Speak with an Experienced Malpractice Attorney

If you or someone you love sustained an injury in a hospital because of incompetent care, it is advisable to speak with an experienced Rochester hospital malpractice attorney regarding what damages you may be able to recover from the parties that caused your harm. The diligent attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are proficient at helping people injured by medical malpractice seek recourse for their harm, and they will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us through our form online or at 585-653-7343 to set up a confidential and free consultation.

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