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New York Court Discusses Enforceability of Releases in Medical Malpractice Cases

Cosmetic surgery is typically elective, but it nonetheless carries the same risks as other procedures. For example, if a surgeon does not take the proper precautions, a patient may suffer infections, adhesions, or other harm. Patients harmed by the negligence of plastic surgeons typically have the right to pursue damages via medical malpractice claims unless they expressly waive their rights via a contractual release. The grounds for enforcing a release in a medical malpractice case were recently discussed by a New York Court, in a ruling in which the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed. If you were harmed by the negligence of a plastic surgeon, you could be owed compensation, and it is in your best interest to meet with a seasoned Syracuse surgical malpractice lawyer to assess your options.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the plaintiff received a buttock augmentation at the defendant facility. Following the procedure, she developed an infection and bleeding at the operative site. She had to undergo additional procedures and was prescribed narcotic pain medication. She subsequently contacted the defendant and requested a refund of her payment for the procedure. The defendant agreed but required her to sign a release prior to granting her the refund. The plaintiff then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant. The defendant ultimately moved for summary judgment, arguing that the release barred the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff opposed the motion, but the court granted it regardless.

Enforceability of Releases in Medical Malpractice Cases

Upon review, the court explained that, under New York law, a valid release that is unambiguous and clear on its face will be enforced as a private agreement between the parties, as long as it was entered into knowingly and voluntarily. In other words, absent evidence of duress, fraud, undue influence, or another valid defense, a release will be binding on the parties that signed it.

In the subject case, the plaintiff argued that the release should be set aside because she did not enter into it willingly and knowingly. Specifically, she argued that because she was on narcotics at the time, her consent was invalid. The court noted that, while contracts of a mentally incompetent person who has not been deemed insane by the courts are voidable, it is presumed that people that enter into contracts have the capacity to do so. Thus, to prove incapacity, the plaintiff had to prove that her mind was so affected that it rendered her wholly incapable of comprehending the nature of the transaction. The court found that the plaintiff failed to meet this burden in the subject case. Thus, her claims were dismissed.

Meet with a Trusted Syracuse Attorney

Plastic surgeons must exercise the same care as other physicians, and if they fail to do so and harm their patients as a result, they should be held accountable. If you were harmed by a negligently performed cosmetic procedure, you may be able to pursue a surgical malpractice claim, and you should meet with a lawyer. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers, our trusted medical malpractice attorneys can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can reach us through our online form or at 833-200-2000 to schedule a meeting.

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