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New York Court Affirms Dismissal of Medical Malpractice Claims Due to Lack of Evidence of Negligence

In many instances in which a person dies due to a devastating medical issue, the person’s loved ones will pursue medical malpractice claims. Simply because a person dies due to the sudden progression of an illness does not necessarily mean that malpractice has occurred, however, and even in cases involving death, a plaintiff must nonetheless produce evidence sufficient to prove liability. This was illustrated in a recent medical malpractice case in New York in which the plaintiff’s medical malpractice and wrongful death claims were dismissed due to a lack of evidence that the defendants breached the standard of care. If you lost a loved one due to negligent medical care, it is prudent to speak to a Syracuse medical malpractice attorney to discuss your possible claims.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff’s decedent sought treatment for back pain on three occasions in January 2012. First, he visited his primary care physician with complaints of extreme back pain and was directed to visit the emergency room. He then went to the defendant medical center, where he was examined by the defendant doctor, who ruled out an aneurysm or tracheal deviation. Two days later, he returned to the defendant primary care physician and was directed to undergo an MRI. Following the MRI, he was directed to go to the emergency room.

Allegedly, the decedent then visited the defendant hospital, where he was diagnosed with an epidural abscess. Soon after, he became paralyzed from the waist down and ultimately died due to respiratory failure. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against each of the treating providers, who, in turn, filed motions for summary judgment. The court largely granted the motions, and the plaintiff appealed.

Evidence Sufficient to Proceed to Trial

The court noted that, under New York law, the essential elements of a medical malpractice claim are a deviation from the accepted practice of medicine and evidence that such deviation proximately caused an injury. Thus, a defendant seeking dismissal via summary judgment in a medical malpractice case must make a prima facie showing that he or she did not deviate from the applicable standard or that any deviation did not proximately cause the plaintiff’s alleged harm. If a defendant meets this burden, the plaintiff must submit materials or facts sufficient to rebut the defendant’s evidence.

While summary judgment is not appropriate in cases involving conflicting expert reports, if an expert opinion is conclusory and speculative, it will be insufficient to demonstrate a triable issue of fact. Here, the plaintiff’s experts failed to demonstrate that the decedent’s death was caused by medical negligence. As such, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims.

Confer with a Skilled Syracuse Attorney

People only have one chance to pursue medical malpractice claims, and it is critical that they obtain the evidence needed to prove liability. If you were injured or suffered the loss of a loved one due to the acts of a careless doctor, you should confer with an attorney regarding your rights. The skilled Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are adept at helping injured parties pursue damages, and we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us via our form online or by calling 315-479-9000 to schedule a conference.

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