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Court Discusses Relation-Back Doctrine in New York Medical Malpractice Cases

Plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases, like plaintiffs in other civil lawsuits, are subject to statutes of limitations they must abide by in order to retain the right to pursue damages. As such, if a plaintiff does not file a medical malpractice lawsuit in a timely manner, his or her claim may be dismissed. There are exceptions, however, such as when the relation-back doctrine applies to allow the court to toll the statute of limitations. This was discussed in a recent case decided by a New York court, in which the court ultimately found that the plaintiff failed to establish that the doctrine should apply. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to negligent care in a hospital, it is in your best interest to speak with a knowledgeable Syracuse hospital malpractice attorney regarding your right to pursue compensation.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff’s decedent was in a coma until she died in August 2016. The plaintiff was appointed her guardian in October 2006. In August 2008, the plaintiff instituted a wrongful death and medical malpractice action against the defendant hospital, arising out of the treatment of the plaintiff’s decedent. Subsequently, in October 2016, the plaintiff began a second wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant as well as two other defendants. The allegations in the second lawsuit were almost identical to those in the first. The new defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s second lawsuit was barred by the statute of limitations, which required the lawsuit to be filed within two years and six months of when the plaintiff was appointed as his decedent’s guardian. The plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing that the relation-back doctrine applied to toll the statute of limitations.

The Relation-Back Doctrine

Under the relation-back doctrine, claims against a defendant in an amended pleading relate back to claims previously asserted against a co-defendant, as long as the defendants are united in interest. Typically, it applies to cases in which a party or cause of action is added to a lawsuit, but it can also apply to cases in which separate actions are consolidated. A court evaluating whether the relation-back doctrine should apply must conduct a three-part test. First, the court must determine whether both of the claims arise out of the same conduct. Then the court must assess whether the new party is united in interest with the previous defendant so that the new party can be charged with notice of the claims against him or her. Lastly, the new defendant must know that absent a mistake on behalf of the plaintiff, he or she would have been named as a defendant earlier.

In the subject case, the court found that the new defendants were not in any way united in interest with the prior defendants, and the allegations against each party were separate and distinct. Further, there was nothing to support the argument that the new defendants knew or should have known that they would have been named as parties if not for a mistake. Thus, the court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

Meet with a Trusted Malpractice Attorney

If you sustained damages because of negligent care you received in a hospital, it is prudent to meet with a trusted Syracuse hospital malpractice attorney as soon as possible to avoid waiving your right to recover compensation. The trusted attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers will work tirelessly to provide you with a strong chance of obtaining a successful result. You can contact us via our online form or at 315-479-9000 to set up a consultation.

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