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Court Analyzes the Impact of Judicial Estoppel on Medical Malpractice Claims in New York

If a person harmed by medical malpractice in New York wishes to seek compensation via a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is important that the person understands how other unrelated cases may impact his or her malpractice case. For example, if a medical malpractice plaintiff files for bankruptcy during the pendency of his or her malpractice litigation, it could impair the plaintiff’s rights to recover a damages award, as discussed in a recent New York case. If you were injured by incompetent medical care, it is wise to speak to a knowledgeable Syracuse medical malpractice attorney to discuss what factors may impact your case.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that in 2006 the plaintiff and her husband filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that the defendant provided the plaintiff with negligent medical care, which caused her to suffer unspecified injuries. Then, in 2008 while the medical malpractice lawsuit was still pending, the plaintiff filed for bankruptcy. She did not list her pending medical malpractice case as an asset in the bankruptcy proceeding, which was fully administered and closed in 2009.

Allegedly, in 2016, the plaintiff once again filed for bankruptcy. She did not list her pending medical malpractice case in the second bankruptcy proceeding, either. The second bankruptcy was fully administered and closed in August of 2016. Then, in November, the plaintiff moved to reopen her initial bankruptcy to list the pending medical malpractice action as an asset of the estate. The court granted the plaintiff’s motion, and the bankruptcy schedule was ultimately amended to include the medical malpractice action. The defendant then filed a motion to dismiss the medical malpractice lawsuit, arguing that the plaintiff lacked the capacity to sue due to judicial estoppel. The court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Impact of Judicial Estoppel on Medical Malpractice Claims

Under New York law, the doctrine of judicial estoppel bars a party from asserting a position in a lawsuit that is contrary to a position the party took in a prior proceeding, solely due to the fact the party’s interests have changed. The purpose of the doctrine of judicial estoppel is to avoid inconsistent results in separate proceedings and to protect the integrity of the judicial process. In the context of bankruptcy, a debtor that does not list causes of action on a schedule of assets maintains that it has no such claims. As such, judicial estoppel may prohibit a party from pursuing claims that were not listed in a prior bankruptcy proceeding.

In the subject case, the court declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning, noting that because the bankruptcy estate was opened to list the medical malpractice action as an asset of the estate, judicial estoppel did not apply. Further, the court noted that the plaintiff’s interests became a part of the bankruptcy estate, and therefore the medical malpractice case belonged to the trustee of the estate rather than the plaintiff. Thus, the court found that the plaintiff’s failure to list the action as an asset of the estate did not preclude the trustee from pursuing the action.

Meet with an Experienced Syracuse Attorney

If you sustained damages due to negligently rendered medical care, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced Syracuse medical malpractice attorney to discuss what compensation you may be owed. The dedicated attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your options for pursuing damages and assist you in seeking the best outcome available under the facts of your case. We can be reached at 315-479-9000 or through our online form to schedule a consultation.

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