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New York Court Discusses Liability of Residents in Medical Malpractice Cases

Many hospitals and facilities not only provide medical care, but they also act as learning institutions for doctors in training. Thus, in many cases, a patient will be treated by a resident who is supervised by an attending physician. The duties imposed on supervised medical personal differ from those exercising independent judgment, as explained in a recent medical malpractice case decided by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, and in some cases, a resident may not be held liable for an injured patient’s harm. If you were injured by negligent medical care, it is advisable to speak with a dedicated Syracuse medical malpractice attorney to discuss your potential claims.

The Plaintiff’s Treatment

It is alleged that the plaintiff’s decedent underwent gallbladder removal surgery, during which his liver was lacerated. He subsequently died from bleeding complications. The plaintiffs then filed wrongful death and lack of informed consent claims against the defendant medical center, and defendant resident. As to the defendant resident, the plaintiffs alleged that he failed to test the decedent’s blood coagulation profile or to address the decedent’s coagulation issues prior to the surgery. The defendant resident filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court denied. The defendant appealed.

Duties Imposed on Residents

Under New York law, when a member of medical personnel is carrying out the orders of a supervisor and therefore is not exercising independent medical judgment, they typically cannot be held accountable for medical malpractice. Thus, a resident in many cases cannot be deemed responsible for medical malpractice. There is an exception, however, in cases in which the directives provided by the supervising physician so significantly deviate from the normal practice of medicine, that the resident should be held accountable for failing to intervene.

In the subject case, the court noted that the defendant produced sufficient evidence to prove that he did not deviate from the applicable standard of care and that his treatment of the decedent did not cause the decedent’s harm and ultimate death. Further, the defendant established that, as a fourth-year resident, he was not exercising his own medical judgment, and that the directions from his attending physician did not so greatly depart from the normal practice of medicine as to require the defendant to take steps to prevent harm.

In opposition to the defendant’s motion, however, the plaintiffs raised a material issue of fact as to whether the defendant had an obligation to exercise independent medical judgment, and whether the defendant’s failure to intervene in the attending physician’s treatment of the decedent caused the decedent’s harm. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Speak with a Skillful Medical Malpractice Attorney

Doctors have a duty to provide competent care, and if they fail to uphold their duty, they should be held accountable for any damages they cause. If you suffered harm due to an improperly performed medical procedure, it is in your best interest to speak with a skillful Syracuse medical malpractice attorney regarding what compensation you may be able to recover. The attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are adept at helping injured parties seek recourse for their harm in surgical malpractice cases. You can reach us at 833-200-2000 or through our online form to schedule a confidential and free meeting.

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