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New York Court Discusses Liability for Medical Providers Covered Under the Federal Tort Claims Act

In any medical malpractice case, it is essential for the injured person to name the correct parties as defendants. In some cases, however, it is not immediately clear who the correct parties or entities are, and a plaintiff who names the incorrect parties may have his or her claims dismissed. This was demonstrated in a recent obstetric malpractice case arising out of New York in which the defendants moved to substitute the United States as the defendant because the individually named defendants were eligible for coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act. If you were harmed by a negligent obstetrician, you should consult a trusted Syracuse obstetric malpractice attorney to discuss which claims you may be able to pursue against the parties that caused your harm.

The Plaintiff’s Treatment and Alleged Harm

The plaintiff received care at the defendant hospital throughout her pregnancy. In January 2011, she was admitted to the defendant hospital for the induction of labor. She ultimately filed a medical malpractice claim against the defendant hospital and two individual treatment providers, alleging that they deviated from the standard of care in negligently failing to perform required diagnostic procedures and failing to diagnose the plaintiff’s placenta previa in a timely manner. The plaintiff did not file an administrative complaint regarding her allegations with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The defendant hospital had a contract to provide medical services with an integrated service system (ISS), which was the recipient of a grant from HHS to provide preventative health care. As a result, ISS was considered eligible for coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Thus, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the correct defendant was the United States.

Medical Malpractice Claims Under the Federal Tort Claims Act

Under the FTCA, the United States is immune from liability with certain exceptions. One of the exceptions is for personal injuries caused by the negligence or wrongful omission or act of any government employee while acting within the course and scope of his or her employment. Prior to bringing a claim under the FTCA, a plaintiff must exhaust the statutory remedies by presenting his or her claim to the appropriate agency. If a plaintiff fails to comply with these requirements, the courts will lack subject matter jurisdiction over the named entity. Furthermore, under the Public Health Service Act, eligible health centers and the providers that they employ are considered federal employees for the purposes of tort liability.

In the subject case, the court found that the care provided by the defendants was preventative, as required to fall under the scope of FTCA coverage. As a result, the court found that since the defendants were acting within the scope of their employment at the time that they provided services, the United States must be substituted as the proper defendant. Therefore, the court granted the defendants’ motion, dismissing the plaintiff’s claim without prejudice.

Meet with a Skillful Obstetric Malpractice Attorney

If you or your child suffered injuries due to inadequate obstetric care, you should meet with a skillful Syracuse obstetric malpractice attorney to assess the compensation that you may be able to recover. The zealous attorneys at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers will work diligently to help you seek to hold anyone that contributed to your harm accountable. You can contact us at 315-479-9000 or through the form online to set up a meeting.

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