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New York Court Discusses Releases in Medical Malpractice Cases

In many medical malpractice cases, there are multiple parties named as defendants. Defendants typically have varying degrees of liability, and it is not uncommon for one defendant to agree to settle, and for the plaintiff to draft a release dismissing the claims against that defendant. A release as to one defendant will not apply to unnamed parties, though, as discussed in an opinion recently issued by a New York court in a hospital malpractice case. If you suffered harm due to incompetent care you received in a hospital, it is in your best interest to meet with a capable Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your right to pursue damages.

The History of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff child received treatment at the defendant hospital. He suffered unspecified harm, after which his mother filed a lawsuit against the defendant hospital and multiple doctors who worked at the hospital, arguing their negligence caused her son’s harm. A settlement agreement was reached between the defendant hospital and other providers, and the plaintiff. Pursuant to the agreement, the plaintiff provided general releases to the settling defendants and filed an infant compromise order.

It is reported that it was understood, however, that she was permitted to continue her claims against the remaining defendants. More than three years later, though, the defendant doctor, who was an employee of the defendant hospital, sought to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims against her on the grounds that she was covered by the terms of the general release. The plaintiff then moved to amend the infant compromise order to the extent it could be construed to release claims against the defendant doctor. The court granted the plaintiff’s motion, and the defendant doctor appealed.

Effect of the Release of One Defendant

On appeal, the court found no reason to disrupt the trial court ruling. The court definitively stated that the general release and the terms of the infant compromise order were never intended to benefit the defendant doctor. The court explained that despite the fact that the release employed language that was standardized and even ritualistic, there was no direct or circumstantial evidence that the purpose of the infant compromise order was to settle the plaintiff child’s claims against the defendant doctor or any of the other remaining defendants. The court elaborated that pursuant to New York law, a release cannot be read to cover issues which the parties did not intend to dispose of or address. As such, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order.

Confer with a Knowledgeable Syracuse Attorney

People suffering from serious illnesses will generally seek treatment in a hospital with the expectation that they will be provided competent care, but unfortunately, some people in hospitals are harmed by medical incompetence. If you were injured by hospital malpractice, you should confer with an attorney about your right to pursue damages. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers, our knowledgeable medical malpractice attorneys can aid you in seeking the maximum compensation recoverable under the law, and we will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us by calling 315-479-9000 to set up a meeting.

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