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New York Court Discusses Effects of Failure to Comply with Procedure in a Medical Malpractice Case

If a person dies due to medical malpractice, the administrator of the person’s estate can file a lawsuit seeking compensation on behalf of the estate. Regardless of the merits of the underlying claim, however, if the party seeking damages does not comply with the procedural requirements for pursuing claims on behalf of the estate, the claim may be dismissed. This was demonstrated in a recent medical malpractice case which was dismissed due to the plaintiff’s inappropriate filings. If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to medical malpractice it is critical to retain a skilled Syracuse medical malpractice attorney to help you seek damages.

Factual and Procedural Background

Reportedly, in 2015, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, setting forth causes of action of medical malpractice on behalf of her decedent’s estate, arising out of nursing home negligence in January through September 2013. The plaintiff’s decedent died on September 30, 2013, but the plaintiff was not named as the administratrix of the decedent’s estate until January 2018. The case was dismissed by the court for the failure to prosecute. The plaintiff filed a motion to reinstate the action.

Dismissal of a Case Due to Improper Commencement

On appeal, the court affirmed the dismissal of the case and denied the plaintiff’s motion. The court stated that the action was improperly commenced and should have been dismissed at the outset, due to the plaintiff’s failure to obtain proper letters of administration. Further, the court noted that the plaintiff’s attorney lacked any authority to act until the proper party was substituted. As the case was dismissed due to the failure to prosecute, however, the court was limited to addressing the arguments set forth in the plaintiff’s motion.

Specifically, in the plaintiff’s motion to reinstate, she argued that the case was dismissed for her failure to substitute. The court stated that a dismissal for failure to substitute is not a dismissal on the merits and therefore, the plaintiff could have filed a new action if she was within the statute of limitations. The court was not persuaded by the plaintiff’s argument that the case should be reinstated if the plaintiff could make a prima facie showing of merit, a reasonable excuse for the delay in substituting the parties, and a lack of prejudice suffered by the defendant, noting that the applicable rule did not refer to any basis for a reinstatement following a dismissal. Further, the court noted that a motion for substitution may only be filed when a party dies during litigation. Here, the decedent was never a party to the case, and therefore, substitution was never a viable option. Further, the court pointed out that the lower court found that the plaintiff lacked a reasonable excuse for her delay. Thus, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion.

Speak with a Trusted Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you were injured by incompetent medical care you should speak with a trusted Syracuse medical malpractice attorney regarding your options for seeking damages. The capable attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers will work diligently to develop compelling arguments to help you pursue the best legal outcome achievable under the facts of your case. You can reach us at 315-479-9000 or via our form online to set up a confidential and free conference to discuss your case.

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