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New York Court Differentiates Medical Malpractice and Ordinary Negligence

People who witness others experiencing serious health issues will often call 911, after which an emergency response team will typically respond. Unfortunately, EMS teams are not always able to provide people in critical condition with the care that they need, and in some instances, people succumb to their illnesses. The evidence needed to establish an EMS team’s fault for a patient’s death depends, in part, on whether their actions constituted mere negligence or medical malpractice, as demonstrated in a recent New York opinion. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to the carelessness of an emergency care provider, it is wise to talk to a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer about your possible claims.

Case Background

It is reported that the decedent, a registrant at the defendant’s adult day health facility, began choking during lunch. The defendant’s employee, a registered nurse, responded to an intercom announcement and found the decedent pale and showing signs of choking. Despite efforts to help her, the decedent lost consciousness, which prompted a 911 call. The defendant emergency medical services (EMS) team arrived at the scene, provided treatment, and transported the decedent to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Allegedly, the plaintiff filed an action against the defendants to recover damages for medical malpractice and wrongful death. The defendant EMS team sought summary judgment, arguing that it did not depart from accepted medical standards and that its actions were not the proximate cause of the decedent’s death.

Medical Malpractice or Ordinary Negligence

In weighing whether to grant summary judgment, the court considered whether defendant EMS’s conduct constituted medical malpractice or negligence. In other words, it analyzed whether defendant EMS’s actions were an integral part of rendering medical treatment or fell within the realm of ordinary negligence. The court noted that while medical malpractice requires proof of a deviation from accepted medical standards, ordinary negligence is determined based on whether the defendant breached a duty owed to the plaintiff.

The court noted that defendant EMS provided expert testimony supporting its position that its actions were in accordance with accepted standards of care. The expert testified that EMS’s response, including the timing of arrival and treatment provided, was appropriate given the circumstances. Thus, the court found that defendant EMS had satisfied its initial burden of showing that it did not depart from accepted medical practice.

In opposition, the plaintiff failed to provide expert testimony to rebut defendant EMS’s showing or to raise triable issues of fact. The plaintiff argued, however, that defendant EMS’s delay in locating the decedent constituted negligence rather than medical malpractice, and the court ultimately agreed. Specifically, the court found that locating the decedent did not involve specialized medical skills and was not an integral part of rendering medical treatment.

Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff raised a triable issue of fact regarding defendant EMS’s alleged negligence in locating the decedent. As a result, it denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Talk to an Experienced Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you sustained damages due to the carelessness of a healthcare provider, it is smart to talk to an attorney to determine whether you may be able to recover damages via a medical malpractice lawsuit or other claims. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, our experienced Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys can advise you of your options and aid you in pursuing the maximum damages recoverable. You can contact us at 833-200-2000 or via the form online to arrange a conference.

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