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New York Court Discusses Standard for Granting Summary Judgment in Medical Malpractice Cases

In medical malpractice cases, the burden shifts from the plaintiff, who must set forth evidence of the defendant’s malpractice, to the defendant, who must set forth evidence that he or she comported with the standard of care. When there is conflicting evidence the issue of whether the defendant committed malpractice is typically presented to a jury. In some cases, however, the evidence allows the court to find in favor of one party prior to a trial.

A New York appellate court recently discussed the standards for granting a motion for summary judgment in a medical malpractice case in which the court affirmed judgment in favor of the defendant. If you suffered harm because of a medical practitioner’s negligent failure to conduct necessary tests or diagnose an illness in a timely manner to ensure medical treatment, you should speak with a skilled Syracuse medical malpractice attorney regarding whether you may be able to recover damages for your harm.

The Decedent’s Treatment and Subsequent Death

Allegedly, the plaintiff’s decedent was a resident in a nursing home owned by the defendant for approximately fifteen months prior to her death in January 2012. The decedent suffered from several chronic health conditions, but her immediate cause of death was indicated as cardiopulmonary arrest caused by heart disease and atherosclerosis. Following an autopsy, the decedent’s final cause of death was determined to be aspiration pneumonia. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant alleging, in part, medical malpractice. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant committed malpractice by failing to diagnose the decedent’s dysphagia, and failing to prevent or treat the decedent’s aspiration pneumonia. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment which the trial court granted. The plaintiff subsequently appealed.

The Standard for Granting Summary Judgment in a Medical Malpractice Case

On appeal, the court noted that in a medical malpractice lawsuit where the plaintiff and defendant present conflicting expert opinions, summary judgment is not appropriate. The court stated, however, that expert opinions that are speculative or conclusory, or that were not supported by the evidence of record are insufficient to show the existence of a triable issue of fact. The court explained that for an expert opinion to avoid being categorized as conclusory or speculative, it must set specifically respond to assertions set forth by the opposing party’s expert. Moreover, the expert must explain his or her reasoning, and cite to the evidence of record on which he or she relied.

In the subject case, the court found that the defendant established a right to summary judgment by providing an expert opinion that stated with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the defendant did not deviate from the standard of care, and that any departure did not cause the decedent’s death. In response to the defendant’s expert opinion, however, the plaintiff failed to show there was a triable issue of fact. Specifically, the expert opinion provided by the plaintiff was speculative and conclusory.  As such, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Confer with an Experienced Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you sustained an injury or illness because of a medical provider’s failure to diagnose or treat you in a timely manner, you should confer with an experienced Syracuse medical malpractice attorney to discuss the circumstances regarding your harm and your right to pursue damages. The knowledgeable Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano will work diligently to gather any evidence in your favor, to help you develop effective arguments. We can be contacted at 315-479-9000 or via our online form to schedule a free and confidential conference.

More Blog Posts:

New York Court Overturns Dismissal of Medical Malpractice Case Due to Disputed Facts, Syracuse Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 29, 2019

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