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New York Court Explains Shifting Burden of Proof in Medical Malpractice Cases

In the New York courts, a plaintiff seeking the recovery of damages in a medical malpractice case must set forth certain evidence regarding the treating medical provider’s inappropriate care, or his or her claim will be dismissed. If the plaintiff meets this burden, the burden then shifts to the treating provider to show the care was appropriate.

As recently illustrated in a case decided by the appellate division of the Supreme Court of New York, plaintiffs pursuing medical malpractice actions will be permitted to proceed on their claim unless the defendant medical providers can irrefutably show no breach of the standard of care. If you sustained harm due to inadequate or negligent medical care, you should meet with an experienced Rochester medical malpractice attorney to review the facts of your case and whether you may be able to recover compensation from the medical provider that caused your impairment.

Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Treatment

Reportedly, the plaintiff gave birth in August 2012 at the defendant hospital. Forceps were used by the first physician during the delivery. Following the delivery, the first physician left the delivery room. The plaintiff then underwent an episiotomy repair that was performed by a second physician.  The plaintiff subsequently filed an action against both physicians and the hospital for medical malpractice related to complications arising from the episiotomy and its repair. At the close of discovery, the first physician filed a motion to have the claims against him dismissed. The court denied the motion, after which the first physician appealed.

Burden Shifting Analysis

On appeal, the court noted that to establish liability against a physician in a medical malpractice case, a plaintiff must show that the physician deviated from the acceptable standards of practice as set forth by the medical community and that the deviation was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. A defendant can refute a plaintiff’s claims by successfully showing that his or her treatment was not a deviation from the accepted standards or that the plaintiff was not harmed by any deviation. When the defendant’ successfully satisfies his or her burden, the plaintiff must submit evidence to counter the defendant’s evidence.

In the subject case, the court found that the first physician produced an affirmation of a medical expert that stated he did not deviate from the standard of care and that any deviation did not cause the plaintiff’s alleged injuries. As such, the first physician proved a prima facie case that he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court noted, however, that the plaintiff submitted an affirmation from her own medical expert that stated that the use of forceps caused a fourth-degree laceration which went undiagnosed and that the first physician failed to repair the episiotomy or perform certain examinations after the delivery. The affirmation also stated that the first physician’s behavior deviated from the standard of care and that the deviation caused the plaintiff’s injuries. As such, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Consult a Trusted Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Medical errors can result in significant and lasting injuries. If you have sustained harm due to negligent medical care, you should consult a trusted Rochester medical malpractice attorney to discuss the facts of your case. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, our experienced Rochester medical malpractice attorneys will fight diligently on your behalf to help you in pursuit of any compensation you may be owed. To set up a free and confidential consultation, contact us at 315-479-9000 or through our online form.

More Blog Posts:

Patient Safety at New York Hospitals Needs Improvement,  Rochester Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Blog, December 11, 2018

Postpartum Hemorrhage Malpractice in Rochester, New York, Rochester Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Blog, October 30, 2018

No Mandatory Arbitration in New York Medical Malpractice Cases, Rochester Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Blog, September 28, 2018

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