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

In New York medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff typically must name the parties allegedly responsible for their losses and must assert all of their claims against them within the timeframe dictated by the applicable statute of limitations. There are exceptions to the rule, though, such as when the identity of the healthcare provider that caused the plaintiff’s harm is unknown. In such instances, the relation-back doctrine, which allows for an amendment of a complaint to identify the proper defendant, may apply. In a recent opinion, a court explained the relation-back doctrine in the context of medical malpractice cases, ultimately determining that the trial court properly found that the doctrine applied. If you suffered harm by the carelessness of a physician, it is smart to meet with a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer to evaluate what claims you may be able to assert.

Factual and Procedural Setting

It is alleged that the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit contending that the decedent, who had undergone treatment for lung cancer, experienced a lack of timely diagnosis and treatment, resulting in metastasis. The initial complaint, filed on January 31, 2020, named “John Doe, M.D.” as the attending physician in May 2016. The plaintiff later moved to substitute the defendant for “John Doe, M.D.,” the plaintiff invoked the relation-back doctrine. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion, allowing for the substation of the defendant for the previously named “John Doe, M.D.” The defendant then appealed.

The Relation-Back Doctrine in New York Medical Malpractice Cases

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. In doing so, it explained that the plaintiff invoked the relation-back doctrine, which allows the addition of a party after the statute of limitations has lapsed. The court explained that for the doctrine to apply, three conditions must be met: the claim must arise from the same occurrence, conduct, or transaction; there must be unity of interest between the original party and the party to be substituted; and the substituted party must have knowledge or awareness that plaintiff would have asserted claims against them as well, but for the plaintiff’s mistake in identity.

In the subject case, the court found that the trial court properly exercised its discretion in applying the relation-back doctrine, as the necessary conditions for the doctrine were met. Specifically, the medical records indicating who treated the decedent were illegible, and therefore, his identity was unknown at the time the plaintiff filed the complaint. As such, the court affirmed the order granting the plaintiff’s motion to amend the complaint.

Talk to a Dedicated Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

A person harmed by incompetent medical care has a right to pursue claims against all parties responsible for their harm, but in some instances, it may not be clear who is at fault. If you were hurt by inadequate treatment, you should talk to an attorney about 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 can offer you advice and aid you in seeking a just outcome. You can contact us at 833-200-2000 or through the form online to set up a conference.

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