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New York Court Discusses Evaluating the Sufficiency of Expert Reports in Medical Malpractice Cases

In New York, medical malpractice cases are often a battle of the experts. In other words, whether a plaintiff’s claims are ultimately successful or dismissed depends on the strength of the expert affirmations of both the plaintiff and the defendant. An expert report must not only be compelling, however, but it must also be based on competent information. The risks of relying on unsupported facts were demonstrated in a recent ruling out of New York in which the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s hospital malpractice case due to the insufficiencies of the plaintiff’s expert’s report. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to negligent care in a hospital, you should meet with a Syracuse hospital malpractice attorney to discuss your case.

The Patient’s Care

It is reported that the plaintiff’s decedent, who was HIV positive, visited the emergency room of the defendant hospital with complaints of abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. He was in critical condition and was admitted to the intensive care unit. He was diagnosed with a small bowel obstruction, sepsis, and renal and respiratory failure. He was placed on a ventilator and underwent abdominal surgery, after which he was administered several doses of morphine.

Allegedly, the day after the surgery, the plaintiff’s decedent died. His death certificate listed cardiac arrest due to septic shock caused by a small bowel obstruction as the cause of death. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, alleging incompetent medical care caused the decedent’s death. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court granted, and the plaintiff appealed.

Evaluating the Sufficiency of Expert Reports

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling. The appellate court explained that a defendant seeking summary judgment in a medical malpractice case must establish that the evidence, when taken at face value, shows that the defendant did not depart from the accepted practice of medicine or that any deviation did not cause the plaintiff’s alleged harm. In response to the defendant’s offered proof, a plaintiff must establish that there is a factual dispute over one or more of the elements the defendant relied upon on setting forth its case.

Typically, the proof offered by both parties will be expert reports. For an expert report to be adequate to meet a plaintiff’s burden and not be deemed conclusory or speculative, it must address the assertions set forth by the defendant’s experts and explain the expert’s reasoning by relying on evidence that is specifically cited in the record. In the subject case, the appellate court noted that the defendant’s expert report adequately established that the defendant did not breach the standard of care. In opposition, however, the plaintiff’s expert report opined that the defendant deviated from the standard of care by relying on facts that were not of the record. Thus, the appellate court found the report to be speculative and conclusory and affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Trusted Syracuse Attorney

In any hospital malpractice case, it is critical to retain a competent expert. If you were hurt by incompetent care in a hospital, it is advisable to speak to an attorney regarding what evidence you must produce to recover damages. The trusted Syracuse hospital malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your options and help you to seek a just result. You can reach us at 315-479-9000 or through our form online to set up a consultation.

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