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New York Court Discusses Punitive Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

Incompetent medical treatment can cause significant injuries, and many people harmed by incompetent medical care can recover compensation. While typically, the damages awarded in medical malpractice cases aims to compensate the injured party for the non-economic and economic losses suffered due to negligent healthcare, in some instances, a judge or jury may find it appropriate to impose punitive damages as well. Recently, a New York court issued an opinion discussing when such damages are appropriate in an emergency room malpractice matter in which it ultimately denied the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages. If you suffered harm because of careless treatment for an acute condition, it is prudent to consult a Syracuse emergency room malpractice lawyer to discuss what damages you may be owed.

The Plaintiff’s Claims

It is reported that the plaintiff visited the emergency room of the defendant hospital, where she was treated by the defendant doctor for a wound on her abdomen. Her condition worsened, and she subsequently had to undergo surgery. She filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants seeking, among other things, punitive damages. The defendants moved for summary judgment as to the punitive damages claims, and the court denied the motion. The defendants then appealed.

Punitive Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling. The appellate court explained that the standard for imposing punitive damages is strict, and therefore, they will only be awarded in exceptional cases. The appellate court elaborated that the conduct justifying the award must manifest malice or spite, or an evil or fraudulent motive on behalf of the defendant, or such a deliberate and knowing disregard of the interests of other people that the conduct can be considered wanton or willful.

In other words, the standard for imposing punitive damages is that a plaintiff must show that the defendant manifested evil or malicious conduct that surpasses a mere breach of professional duty. In the subject case, the court found that the defendant met his burden of proof, in that he provided evidence that he conservatively treated the plaintiff’s wound, which he determined to be appropriate under the circumstances, and he had not abandoned the plaintiff’s treatment.

Thus, the appellate court found that even viewing the submissions in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, there was no evidence that the defendant acted with spite, malice, or a conscious and deliberate disregard of the plaintiff’s wellbeing. As such, the court found that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate a triable issue of fact with regard to the punitive damages claim and reversed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorney

Doctors that negligently harm patients may be required to pay them compensation, which in some instances may include punitive damages. If you were hurt by a reckless physician in an emergency room, you have the right to pursue emergency room malpractice claims, and you should meet with a lawyer as soon as possible. The experienced attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your potential claims and aid you in seeking the maximum damages recoverable under the law. You can contact us via our form online or by calling us at  833-200-2000 to set up a conference.



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