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New York Court Discusses Comparative Negligence in Failure to Diagnose Cases

In most medical malpractice cases, the primary focus is on whether the defendant health care provider breached the standard of care and thereby caused the plaintiff harm. In some instances, though, a defendant seeking to refute liability will argue that an intervening cause, such as the plaintiff’s own negligence, was the actual cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Recently, a New York court discussed comparative negligence in a case in which the plaintiff’s decedent lost her life to breast cancer due to a delayed diagnosis. If a doctor failed to diagnose you or someone you love with breast cancer in a timely manner, it is wise to speak to a capable Syracuse delayed diagnosis malpractice attorney regarding your rights.

The Plaintiff’s Decedent’s Treatment

It is reported that the plaintiff’s decedent presented to the defendant health clinic in December 2014, February 2015, and August 2015 with complaints of right breast pain. She was also treated at another hospital for breast pain in between May 2015 and December 2017. She was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2017. She underwent a double mastectomy in April 2017, after which there was no detectable cancer. In December 2017, however, she was informed her breast cancer had metastasized. She ultimately died of cancer at the age of 30 in 2019.

The plaintiff, who was the decedent’s partner, filed a medical malpractice case against the defendant, averring that its failure to properly diagnose and treat the decedent greatly decreased her chance of survival. A bench trial was held during which the court was asked to assess the issues of whether the defendant breached the standard of care in treating the decedent and whether any breach proximately caused her death.

Comparative Negligence in Failure to Diagnose Cases

In assessing the defendant’s negligence, the court noted that the defendant did not breach the standard of care with regard to the first visit, as the evidence of record demonstrated that the lump in the decedent’s breast at the time was not cancer. With regards to the second visit, the plaintiff presented expert testimony that an MRI should have been conducted and that the defendant should have followed up with the decedent to ensure that she underwent an ultrasound. The court rejected this argument, noting that New York courts had faulted plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases for failing to schedule appointments when such failures were found to contribute to their harm.

Ultimately, the court found that the defendant breached the standard of care by not following up regarding the decedent’s breast complaints during the third visit and that the breach proximately caused her to suffer a substantial loss in her chance to survive breast cancer. The court noted, however, that under New York law, a plaintiff can be deemed partially or completely responsible for his or her own harm. Here, the court found the decedent fifty percent at fault for failing to schedule her ultrasound. Thus, the damages the plaintiff was ultimately awarded were reduced proportionately.

Speak to an Experienced Syracuse Attorney

Obtaining a prompt and accurate diagnosis is critical to increasing a cancer patient’s likelihood of survival, and therefore delayed diagnoses can cause grave harm. If your doctor failed to diagnose your cancer in a timely manner, the experienced Syracuse delayed diagnosis malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and advise you of your potential claims. We can be reached by calling 833-200-2000 or accessing our form online to set up a meeting.

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