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New York Court Discusses Summary Judgment in Medical Malpractice Cases With Conflicting Expert Reports

It is not uncommon for a defendant in a medical malpractice case to seek to have the case dismissed via a motion for summary judgment. Typically, the defendant’s motion will rely on an expert affidavit opining that the defendant met the standard of care. Even if a defendant sets forth a sufficient expert report, however, the injured party’s claim will not be dismissed if he or she presents an expert affidavit calling the defendant’s care into question. The appellate division of the Supreme Court of New York recently discussed whether summary judgment is warranted where the parties have conflicting expert reports in an ob-gyn malpractice case in which the court affirmed that the plaintiff had set forth sufficient evidence of the defendants’ negligence. If you or your unborn child suffered harm because of inappropriate care provided by an obstetrician or gynecologist, you should meet with an assertive Syracuse ob-gyn malpractice attorney to discuss your case.

Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Treatment

It is alleged that the plaintiff was treated by the defendant obstetrician-gynecologists during her pregnancy. In her third trimester, she complained of pain in her back and abdomen, which the defendants dismissed as normal pregnancy pains. At 28 weeks of gestation, however, it was revealed that the plaintiff suffered a placental abruption, which resulted in the intrauterine death of her fetus. The plaintiff then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s case. The court denied the motion, after which the defendants appealed.

Summary Judgment in Cases Involving Conflicting Expert Opinions

The court stated that the critical elements of a medical malpractice case are evidence of a departure from the accepted practice of medicine and that the departure proximately caused the plaintiff’s harm. Thus, a defendant pursuing dismissal via summary judgment must make a prima facie showing that he or she met the standard of care, or that any departure did not bring about the plaintiff’s alleged harm. The court noted, however, the summary judgment is not appropriate in cases in which the parties produce conflicting affidavits from medical experts.

In the subject case, the court stated that the defendants met their burden by producing an expert affidavit that opined that, upon review of the medical records, the defendants’ treatment of the plaintiff was within the accepted standard of care, and that regardless, any purported departures from the standard of care did not cause the plaintiff’s harm.

In opposition, however, the plaintiff raised a question of fact regarding the issue of whether the care provided by defendants was appropriate. Specifically, the plaintiff produced an expert affidavit stating that the defendants failed to meet the standard of care by failing to admit the plaintiff for constant monitoring, given her symptoms. Further, the plaintiff’s expert stated that the fetus would have been viable at 28 weeks’ and he would most likely have survived if he was delivered via an emergency cesarean section. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak with a Capable Malpractice Attorney

If you or your child suffered harm because of inadequate care during your pregnancy, you should speak with a capable Syracuse ob-gyn malpractice attorney to discuss your potential claims. The diligent attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers will assess the facts of your case and craft persuasive arguments to provide you with the best chance of a successful outcome. You can contact us at 315-479-9000 or via our form online to schedule a conference.

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