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New York Court Explains the Difference Between Negligence and Medical Malpractice

Although it is common for a plaintiff pursuing a medical malpractice case in New York to assert that the defendant acted negligently, there are significant differences between ordinary negligence and medical malpractice claims. Thus, if plaintiffs fail to produce the evidence needed to support malpractice claims, it could adversely impact their cases. A New York appellate court recently discussed the differences between ordinary negligence and malpractice in an opinion issued in a hospital malpractice case. If you suffered losses due to incompetent care you received in a hospital, it is prudent to speak to a Rochester hospital malpractice lawyer to evaluate your potential causes of action.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is alleged that the plaintiff visited the defendant hospital with symptoms of a stroke. Diagnostic testing revealed she did, in fact, suffer a stroke, and she was prescribed a medication which was to be administered via infusion, with 10% dispensed over the first minute and the remaining 90% over the next hour. The nursing administered the medication improperly programmed the machine, however, to administer 10% per minute for the first eleven minutes. The mistake was discovered and rectified after about three minutes. The plaintiff began exhibiting signs of distress shortly thereafter, however, and the following day testing revealed she still had clots in her brain.

It is reported that the plaintiff ultimately suffered aphasia and diminished comprehension.  She filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging it was liable for both medical malpractice and ordinary negligence. The defendant moved for summary judgment, and the court denied the motion. The defendant then appealed.

Negligence Versus Medical Malpractice

On appeal, the court discussed the differences between medical malpractice and ordinary negligence claims, rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that her claims sounded in both. Conduct may be considered malpractice as opposed to negligence when it constitutes medical care or bears a significant relationship to medical treatment offered by a licensed doctor.

The difference between malpractice and negligence turns on whether the behavior complained of involves the practice of a medical art or science that requires special skills not possessed by ordinary laypeople, or whether the acts in question can be evaluated based on the trier of fact’s common everyday experience.

In the subject case, the court explained that while the nurse incorrectly administered the medication, she did so in the context of rendering medical treatment to the plaintiff. Thus, the nurse’s error did not transform the case into one involving negligence. Regardless, the court found that the plaintiff produced sufficient evidence to demonstrate a triable issue of fact as to the malpractice claims. As such, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Trusted Rochester Lawyer

People who visit hospitals anticipate that they will receive competent care, but some people, unfortunately, suffer harm due to the careless mistakes of hospital employees. If you sustained losses due to a medical error in a hospital setting, you might be able to pursue a hospital malpractice claim, and it is advisable to speak to an attorney. The trusted Rochester medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your rights and help you to seek a successful result. You can reach us through our online form or at 833-200-2000 to schedule a meeting.


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