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Court Discusses the Scope of Permissible Discovery in Medical Malpractice Cases in New York

In medical malpractice cases, even if plaintiffs believe they were harmed by negligent medical care, they need evidence to support their claims. In many instances, the evidence sought is testimony from the parties that cared for or observed the care of the plaintiff. Thus, if a person with information regarding the plaintiff’s treatment and symptoms refuses to testify, it can frustrate the plaintiff’s attempts to obtain relevant information. Recently, a New York appellate court discussed the scope of permissible discovery in a hospital malpractice case in which a non-defendant physician refused to answer certain questions during his deposition. If you were injured because of inadequate care in a hospital, you might be owed compensation and should contact a capable Syracuse hospital malpractice attorney to evaluate your possible claims.

History of the Case

Allegedly, the plaintiff was a patient at the defendant hospital. Due to the negligence of the defendant and numerous staff members, who were also named as defendants, he suffered significant injuries, including pressure ulcers and an amputation of his left leg above the knee. As such, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants.

It is reported that during the discovery phase of the case, the plaintiff deposed a doctor who worked in the division of wound healing at the defendant hospital. The doctor, however, refused to answer certain questions. The plaintiff’s attorney then obtained an order from the court, allowing him to continue the deposition of the witness. The witness then sought a protective order asking the court to limit the scope of the deposition, which the court granted as well. The plaintiff then appealed the second order.

The Scope of Permissible Discovery in Medical Malpractice Cases in New York

It is a fundamental principle of New York law that in civil litigation, there should be full disclosure of all matter that is relevant and necessary to prosecute or defend a claim, regardless of the burden of proof. Disclosure is not mandated, however, and the rules provide that a court may issue a protective order limiting or denying the use of any means of disclosure, in order to prevent prejudice, unreasonable annoyance, embarrassment, or expense. Additionally, the court can order that a disclosure procedure, such as a deposition, must be monitored by a judge.

A court has wide discretion in determining whether the information sought is relevant and necessary to a party’s claim or defense. As such, absent an error of law, an appellate court will not disturb a trial court’s determination with regard to discovery. In the subject case, the appellate court found that due to the improper conduct of the plaintiff’s attorney during the deposition of the witness, it was appropriate for the trial court to limit the scope of the continued deposition. As such, the trial court’s ruling was affirmed.

Speak to a Trusted Syracuse Attorney

When a hospital and its staff members fail to provide a patient with competent care, it can result in painful injuries and economic losses. If you were hurt by medical negligence, the trusted Syracuse hospital malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers can inform you of your options for seeking damages and fight on your behalf to help you pursue just results. We can be contacted via our form online or at 315-479-9000 to set up a meeting.

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