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New York Court Explains the Distinction Between Medical Malpractice and Negligence

While plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases will typically allege that the defendant health care providers were negligent, there is a difference between what a plaintiff must prove to establish ordinary negligence as opposed to medical negligence. As such, if a plaintiff does not offer adequate proof in support of his or her distinct claims, it could result in a dismissal of the case. The distinction between negligence and medical negligence was the topic of a recent New York opinion issued in a nursing malpractice case. If you were hurt due to the careless actions of a nurse, you could be owed damages, and you should speak to a trusted Rochester nursing malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

The Decedent’s Harm

Allegedly, the plaintiff’s decedent was admitted to a skilled nursing facility that was operated by the defendant federal government. During his admission, he fell and suffered injuries, which led to a worsening of his underlying conditions. He later returned to the nursing facility for a second stay. No changes were made to the facility’s fall protocols, and he fell a second time. He ultimately died from the injuries sustained in the fall. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, asserting both negligence and medical malpractice claims. The matter proceeded to a bench trial, after which the court issued findings of fact in which, in part, it described the differences between negligence and medical malpractice.

Ordinary Negligence Versus Medical Malpractice

The court noted that a threshold issue in the subject case was whether the plaintiff’s allegations against the defendant arising out of the decedent’s care at the skilled nursing facility asserted negligence or malpractice claims. The plaintiff argued she merely had to prove negligence to recover damages, while the defendant averred that she must prove medical malpractice, and as she failed to do so, she should be denied recovery.

Under New York law, an action to recover compensation from a medical facility or provider for bodily harm or wrongful death may be based on either negligence principles or a medical malpractice standard. The court explained that the distinction between the two was subtle, and no clear line delineated the causes of action.

In determining whether a claim sounds in malpractice or negligence, a court must determine whether the duty the plaintiff alleges the defendant breached arises from a patient-doctor relationship or is significantly related to medical treatment, or if the defendant failed to fulfill another duty owed to the plaintiff. Put another way, a claim alleges malpractice when the conduct in question constitutes treatment or bears a substantial relationship to the rendering of care. Here, the court determined that most of the plaintiff’s assertions arising out of the care provided in the skilled nursing facility alleged malpractice.

Speak to a Seasoned Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Rochester

Nurses, like doctors, are expected to provide their patients with thorough and attentive care, and when they fail to uphold their obligations, it often results in devastating harm. If you or a loved one suffered injuries because of negligent nursing care, you might be able to seek compensation via a nursing malpractice claim, and you should speak to an attorney. The seasoned medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best result possible under the circumstances. You can contact us through our online form or at 585-653-7343 to set up a conference.

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