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Court Discusses Shifting Burden of Proof in New York Hospital Malpractice Cases

If a person suffers injuries in a hospital, the hospital may be liable for the person’s harm. The standard for imposing liability against a hospital in a medical malpractice case is the same as the standard from proving the liability of an individual defendant, in that a plaintiff must show a deviation from the standard of care caused his or her harm. The failure to establish proximate cause can be fatal to a plaintiff’s claims, as illustrated in a recent hospital malpractice case decided by the appellate division of the Supreme Court of New York. If you sustained injuries in a hospital due to inadequate care, it is important to meet with a zealous Syracuse hospital malpractice attorney to discuss whether you may be able to recover damages.

Factual Background

It is alleged that the plaintiff, who was 87-years-old, visited the emergency room of the defendant hospital due to an infection in her foot. The defendant’s staff assessed the plaintiff as being at risk for falling and placed the plaintiff on fall protocol. The following morning, however, the plaintiff fell from her bed and fractured her hip. She required surgery to treat her fracture. She subsequently filed a medical malpractice claim against the defendant. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff could not establish liability. The court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Proving a Hospital’s Liability

A defendant hospital seeking to have a case dismissed via summary judgment bears the burden of proving either that there was no deviation from the applicable standard of care or that any deviation was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s alleged harm. If the defendant meets this burden, the plaintiff must produce evidence of a triable issue of fact in response to the defendant.

In the subject case, the defendant met its burden by producing an affidavit of a doctor that specialized in internal and geriatric medicine, stating that the defendant’s fall prevention measures complied with the standard of care and that regardless, the defendant’s acts did not cause the plaintiff’s harm. In response, the plaintiff produced an affidavit from a registered nurse that was a licensed family practitioner. The court found that the plaintiff’s expert affidavit was insufficient to establish a triable issue of fact, however. Specifically, the court noted that the plaintiff’s expert was not a doctor and was not qualified to render a medical opinion regarding the applicable standard of care and whether the defendant deviated from the standard of care. Additionally, the plaintiff’s expert could not opine on whether any alleged deviation caused the plaintiff’s harm. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Capable Hospital Malpractice Attorney

If you or a loved one were injured due to inappropriate care in a hospital, it is advisable to meet with a capable Syracuse hospital malpractice attorney to discuss your harm and what damages you may be able to recover. The proficient medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers will act as aggressive advocates on your behalf to help you seek the most favorable outcome available in your case. We can be contacted through our online form or at 315-479-9000 to schedule a confidential and free conference to discuss your potential claims.

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