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Court Discusses Expert Qualifications in New York Medical Malpractice cases

While it is not uncommon for people in nursing home facilities to suffer harm due to incompetent medical care, it is rare for the parties responsible for causing such injuries to admit fault. As such, a plaintiff pursuing medical malpractice claims against such entities will typically need to retain an expert to explain the standard of care and the manner in which the defendant breached the standard. While only certain people are qualified to testify as experts, that does not necessarily mean that people outside of the defendant’s practice area lack the knowledge needed to offer an expert opinion, as demonstrated in a recent New York ruling. If you sustained injuries due to medical negligence, it is wise to confer with a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer about your rights.

Procedural and Factual History

It is alleged that the decedent, who was a resident at the defendant’s nursing home, fell and suffered injuries. The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging both medical malpractice and ordinary negligence. Among other things, the plaintiff argued that the defendant failed to adhere to the standard of care required for high-risk elderly patients with dementia.

It is reported that the defendant moved for summary judgment, presenting an affirmation from a medical doctor specializing in geriatric medicine, asserting that the defendant complied with the applicable standard of care. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing the complaint. The court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims by categorizing them as solely medical malpractice claims, and disregarded the plaintiff’s nursing expert’s opinion due to the fact that she was not a medical doctor. The plaintiff appealed the judgment and the order.

Expert Qualifications in Medical Malpractice Cases

On review, the court assessed whether the trial erred in its summary judgment ruling by treating all claims as medical malpractice and dismissing the nursing expert’s opinion. Ultimately, the court disagreed with the trial court’s categorization, noting that some of the plaintiff’s claims could be assessed based on common knowledge and experience, fitting the criteria for ordinary negligence.

Additionally, the court found that the plaintiff’s nursing expert, with extensive experience and qualifications, was competent to testify on the standard of care in preventing falls in elderly dementia patients. It elaborated that the standard of care in question fell within the duties of a registered nurse, not exclusively a medical doctor. Therefore, the court determined that the nursing expert’s testimony should be considered, and challenges to her qualifications pertain to the weight of her testimony rather than its admissibility.

Based on the foregoing, the court concluded that the plaintiff had raised a triable issue of fact, warranting denial of the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Consequently, the court reversed the lower court’s judgment, remanding the case for further proceedings.

Talk to a Dedicated Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or a loved one suffered harm due to the carelessness of a physician or healthcare facility, it is in your best interest to talk to an attorney to assess whether you may be able to recover damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The dedicated Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, Personal Injury Lawyers, have ample experience establishing that careless doctors should be held accountable for the harm they cause, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf.  You can contact us at 833-200-2000 or via the form online to arrange a consultation.

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