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New York Court Discusses Grounds for Overturning a Medical Malpractice Verdict

People pursuing medical malpractice claims in New York will typically wish to have their case tried before a jury. While the expectation is that jurors will issue a fair verdict based on the evidence, that is not always the case. Parties can appeal jury verdicts, but they can be difficult to overturn, as demonstrated in a recent New York ruling issued in a medical malpractice case. If you want to learn more about your rights with regard to pursuing claims against negligent healthcare providers, it is in your best interest to consult a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer.

Case Background

It is alleged that the plaintiff was admitted to a medical center for treatment of gastrointestinal conditions in January 2005. During her admission, she experienced hallucinations. Subsequently, two psychiatrists recommended her involuntary psychiatric hospitalization and the medical center initiated the process. However, the plaintiff was transferred to the defendant medical center the following day for psychiatric care as an involuntary patient.

It is reported that despite being assessed by a psychiatric nurse upon arrival, the plaintiff was not examined by a psychiatrist until approximately 21 hours later. In 2007, the plaintiff initiated a medical malpractice action against the defendant medical center, alleging improper admission and treatment. The case proceeded to a jury trial, focusing solely on the cause of action for medical malpractice. The plaintiff moved for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability, contending that the defendant medical center failed to comply with the requirements of Mental Hygiene Law § 9.27. The trial court denied the motion, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant on the issue of liability, prompting the plaintiff’s appeal.

Grounds for Overturning a Jury’s Verdict

On appeal, the court affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendant. The court explained that to establish medical malpractice, a plaintiff must prove the standard of care, a breach of that standard, and that the breach caused injury, which requires expert testimony.

Here, the plaintiff argued that Mercy’s failure to strictly comply with Mental Hygiene Law § 9.27 constituted medical malpractice per se. However, the court clarified that technical violations of this statute do not automatically establish liability for medical malpractice. In other words, the mere occurrence of a procedural error does not necessarily equate to negligence.

Furthermore, the court clarified that the precedent cited by the plaintiff, Matter of Pilgrim Psychiatric Ctr., was inapplicable to the context of medical malpractice liability. This case, which dealt with the involuntary administration of electroconvulsive therapy, did not set a precedent for determining liability in medical malpractice claims. Therefore, the plaintiff’s reliance on it was misplaced.

Regarding the jury verdict, the court emphasized the principle that such verdicts should not be overturned unless they are contrary to the weight of the evidence. The court found that the jury’s determination—that the defendant medical center did not depart from accepted medical practice—was reasonable based on the evidence presented during the trial. It noted that the jury, having observed the witnesses and evaluated the evidence, was in the best position to assess credibility and draw conclusions. Therefore, the court deferred to the jury’s findings, indicating that the verdict was supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence.

Meet with a Skilled Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you suffered losses due to incompetent medical care, you should meet with an attorney to discuss what damages you may be able to recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The skilled Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can inform you of your rights and assist you in seeking a just outcome. You can contact us at 833-200-2000 or via the form online to arrange a conference.

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