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New York Court Explains Spoliation Sanctions in Medical Malpractice Matters

In medical malpractice matters, the plaintiff will typically rely, in part, on treatment records to show that the defendant failed to provide competent care. Thus, if a defendant fails to retain medical records, imaging, or other documents relating to the plaintiff’s care, it could adversely impact the plaintiff’s ability to establish fault. Further, as discussed in a recent New York opinion issued in a surgical malpractice case, in certain circumstances, the spoliation of evidence may be a basis for imposing sanctions.  If you were injured by a negligently performed procedure, you could be owed compensation, and it is in your best interest to meet with a Rochester surgical malpractice lawyer about your potential claims.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is alleged that the plaintiff visited the defendant facility, where he was treated for swelling and pain in his left leg by the defendant doctors. The defendant doctors performed a venogram and diagnosed the plaintiff with deep vein thrombosis. He was admitted to the defendant hospital, where he was treated with numerous medications, including blood thinners and anticoagulants. During his admission, he suffered a brain hemorrhage which rendered him permanently paralyzed on the left side of his body.

It is reported that the plaintiff instituted a lawsuit against the defendants, asserting claims of medical malpractice and lack of informed consent. During discovery, he sought records from the defendants, including imaging from the venogram. The defendants responded they did not have the images and subsequently moved for summary judgment. The plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion in which he sought sanctions against the defendants for spoliation of evidence. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion and denied the plaintiff’s request for sanctions, and the plaintiff appealed.

Spoliation in Medical Malpractice Cases

The appellate court reversed the trial court ruling as to the medical malpractice claims and request for sanctions. The court explained that a party seeking sanctions for spoliation of evidence must demonstrate that the person or entity that had control over the evidence had a duty to preserve it at the time it was destroyed and that it was demolished with a culpable state of mind. The party must also show that the destroyed evidence was relevant to its claim of defense, which means that a trier of fact could determine that it supported such claim or defense.

The court elaborated that ordinary negligence constituted a culpable state of mind for purposes of a spoliation sanction. In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff adequately established that the defendant lost or discarded the venogram imaging, which was relevant and necessary to his claims, and at the very least, was negligently destroyed. Thus, the court ruled the trial court should have granted the plaintiff’s request for sanctions in the form of an adverse inference at trial.

Meet with an Experienced Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

While most procedures carry some degree of risk, many of the issues that arise following surgery are caused by negligence. If you suffered complications after surgery, you might have grounds to file a surgical malpractice lawsuit, and you should meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced Rochester medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers have the skills and resources needed to achieve successful outcomes, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us via our online form or at 833-200-2000 to set up a conference.


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