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New York Court Discusses Spoliation in Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice cases are unusual in that a plaintiff will often have to rely on medical records obtained from the defendant to demonstrate the defendant’s liability. Thus, if a defendant loses or destroys a plaintiff’s treatment records prior to producing them, it can impair the plaintiff’s ability to prove the defendant was negligent. In such instances, a court may issue a sanction against the defendant. In a recent neurology malpractice case in New York, the court discussed spoliation and what a defendant must prove to avoid sanctions. If you were harmed by a negligent neurologist, you should speak to a capable Syracuse neurology malpractice attorney as soon as possible to avoid waiving your right to pursue damages.

Factual and Procedural History

It is alleged that the plaintiff was treated by the defendant neurologist at a medical center, and the defendant’s private office. The plaintiff ultimately suffered harm due to the progression of an epidural lipomatosis that the defendant failed to diagnose in a timely manner. Thus, the plaintiff instituted a lawsuit against the defendant, setting forth claims of medical malpractice and lack of informed consent.

It is reported that during the course of discovery, the plaintiff requested her treatment records from the defendant. The defendant produced a copy of the plaintiff’s chart but advised the plaintiff that she could not find the original chart. The plaintiff then filed a motion for sanctions for spoliation of evidence. The court granted the motion. The defendant later found the chart and moved for leave to renew her opposition to the plaintiff’s motion for sanctions. The motion was denied, however, and the defendant appealed.

Spoliation in Medical Malpractice Claims in New York

Under New York law, spoliation exists where a party loses or destroys relevant evidence despite the knowledge that a claim that relates to the evidence has been filed or may be filed in the near future. Here, the court explained that in support of her motion for leave to renew the opposition to the plaintiff’s motion for sanctions, the defendant submitted evidence that she did not have at the time the prior motion was presented, and which demonstrated a meritorious defense to the plaintiff’s claims.

The court went on to state that the defendant’s attorney’s affirmation that the records had been found was sufficient to demonstrate cause for leave. Further, as the plaintiff was afforded the opportunity to inspect the records but declined to do so, she could not complain that the records found by the defendant did not represent an accurate representation of her chart. As such, the appellate court ruled that the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion for leave to renew her opposition to the plaintiff’s motion for sanctions.

Meet with a Skillful Attorney in Syracuse

Neurologists are relied upon to provide thorough and competent care, and when they fail to do so, it can cause lasting injuries. If you suffered damages due to a negligent neurologist, the skillful Syracuse neurology malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your rights and help you to pursue the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can contact us by using our online form or calling us at 315-479-9000 to schedule a conference.

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