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Court Discusses Proximate Cause in New York Surgical Malpractice Case

Surgeons are highly skilled and trained and are required to provide treatment commensurate with their training. Surgeons sometimes fall short of the standard of care, however, and when they do, they should be held accountable for any harm they cause. A New York appellate court recently discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence of surgical malpractice, in a case in which the plaintiff alleged a spinal surgeon caused her injuries. If you or a loved one were harmed by a negligent surgeon, it is critical to meet with a zealous Syracuse surgical malpractice attorney to discuss whether you may be able to recoup damages for your harm or the harm of your loved one.

Factual Background

It is alleged that the plaintiff injured her back in a workplace accident in February 2010. She was subsequently referred to the defendant surgeon after epidural steroid injections failed to alleviate her symptoms. An MRI in June 2010 revealed compression of the lumbar spine, and the defendant recommended surgery. Approximately one month later, the defendant performed a discectomy and decompression surgery on the plaintiff. Following the surgery, the plaintiff reported decreased strength in her right leg. An MRI was performed, and the results indicated an impingement on a nerve. The plaintiff was discharged and had three follow-up appointments with the defendant.

Reportedly, in September 2010, the plaintiff was advised she would have to undergo additional surgery if her symptoms did not improve. The plaintiff continued to treat with the defendant for a few additional months and then sought treatment from a second spinal surgeon. The second surgeon recommended another discectomy or fusion surgery. The plaintiff underwent a discectomy, which only partially improved her symptoms. She subsequently filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, arguing in part that the defendant proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries by not recommending surgery when he evaluated her in August 2010. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff, after which the defendant filed a motion to set aside the verdict. The court granted the motion and plaintiff appealed.

Proximate Cause in Malpractice Cases

Under New York law, to establish liability of a surgeon for malpractice, the plaintiff must not only prove that the surgeon deviated from the standard of care, but also that the deviation proximately caused the plaintiff’s harm. In cases in which a defendant moves for judgment as a matter of law, the court may only grant the motion if it concludes, that there is no rational process by which the jury could have found in the plaintiff’s favor, after reviewing the facts and evidence in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, and granting plaintiff every favorable inference that can be drawn from the facts.

In the subject case, the court found that there was no rational process through which the jury could have found that the defendant proximately caused the plaintiff’s harm. Specifically, the court noted that the plaintiff was advised that surgery was an option in September 2010, and the plaintiff’s expert failed to produce any evidence that the one-month delay in recommending surgery caused plaintiff’s alleged injuries. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Confer with an Experienced Attorney

If you or your loved one sustained injuries because of an improperly performed surgery it is crucial to confer with an experienced Syracuse surgical malpractice attorney who is proficient at assisting injured parties in the pursuit of compensation. The aggressive attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers will zealously pursue the full amount of damages you may be able to recoup under the law. We can be contacted via our online form or at 315-479-9000 to schedule a meeting to discuss your injuries.

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