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New York Court Discusses a Supervising Physician’s Liability for Medical Malpractice

In many instances in which a person undergoes a surgical procedure, there are numerous physicians taking part in the surgery. Thus, there may be multiple physicians who may ultimately be held liable for a patient’s injuries if an error is committed during surgery. In a recent New York surgical malpractice case, the court assessed whether a supervising physician could be held liable for medical malpractice for errors committed during the surgery and, if so, the basis for imposing liability. If you or a loved one sustained injuries due to a negligently performed surgery, it is prudent to speak with a dedicated Syracuse surgical malpractice attorney regarding your potential claims.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff underwent bariatric surgery to reduce the size of her stomach. The surgery was performed by the defendant bariatric surgeon, a second defendant surgeon, the defendant anesthesiologist, and the defendant nurse anesthetist. During the course of the surgery, two surgical instruments were stapled to the plaintiff’s stomach, which required a dissection and repair. The plaintiff then filed a medical malpractice action against the defendants. The defendant anesthesiologist moved for summary judgment. The court denied the motion, finding that as the supervising anesthesiologist, he maintained responsibility for the anesthesia care team. The defendant appealed.

A Supervising Physician’s Liability for Medical Malpractice

On appeal the defendant argued, in part, that per his usual practice as the supervising anesthesiologist, he was present when the plaintiff was placed under anesthesia and when her breathing tube was placed, he was not present for the placement or removal of either of the instruments that were stapled to the plaintiff’s stomach. Moreover, he argued that the placement or removal of those instruments did not constitute key elements of the surgical procedural, that required supervision, but that the stapling of the instruments was solely a surgical complication. Lastly, he argued there was no relationship between his alleged failure to supervise the rest of the anesthesia team and the plaintiff’s injuries.

The court disagreed, finding that the expert affidavit produced by the other defendants precluded summary judgment. Specifically, it stated that the defendant anesthesiologist had a duty to ensure that his team possessed the appropriate skills to perform the procedure and that he departed from the standard of care by failing to communicate with the other physicians prior to the surgery and failing to communicate with the nurse anesthetist.

Although the court agreed that the defendant anesthesiologist could not be held vicariously liable for the failings of the defendant nurse anesthetist to the extent that he did not have the ability to control, select, or terminate her as an employee, she was nonetheless under his supervision. Thus, the court found that the defendant anesthesiologist could not only be held liable for his own negligent conduct, but also for the negligent conduct of those under his supervision. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Confer with a Seasoned Syracuse Malpractice Attorney

If you suffered harm because of an improperly performed procedure, it is prudent to confer with a seasoned Syracuse surgical malpractice attorney to discuss your potential claims. The knowledgeable malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers have the resources and knowledge to provide you with a strong chance of obtaining a successful outcome. We can be contacted through our form online or by calling 315-479-9000 to set up a consultation.

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