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New York Court Dismisses Medical Malpractice Claim for Failure to Prosecute

There are several elements to a successful medical malpractice claim. In other words, a plaintiff must not only prove the defendant acted negligently, and in doing so, harmed the plaintiff but must also comply with the procedural rules for pursuing damages. All too often, however, the plaintiff’s claims are dismissed due to procedural defects, as illustrated in a recent New York ruling where the court dismissed the plaintiff’s psychiatric malpractice claim due to failure to prosecute. If you were harmed by a mental health professional’s failure to provide you with a proper diagnosis, you could be owed compensation and should speak to a knowledgeable Syracuse medical malpractice attorney regarding your rights.

The Plaintiff’s Harm and Allegations

Allegedly, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against numerous mental health providers, arguing that they departed from the standard of medical care and acted beyond the bounds of professionalism. Specifically, he alleged they failed to provide him with an accurate diagnosis, failed to take heed of his prior diagnoses, declined to speak to his treating psychiatrist, and refused to institute appropriate procedures, treatment, and care. The court ultimately dismissed his complaint due to his failure to comply with the discovery rules and orders issued by the court regarding the prosecution of the case. He then appealed.

Dismissal for Failure to Prosecute

On appeal, the court noted that Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 37 and 41(b) expressly provide for dismissals for failing to prosecute and failing to comply with discovery orders. A court reviewing dismissals pursuant to these rules will only reverse them if the trial court demonstrated an abuse of discretion. In conducting its review, the courts must be mindful that dismissal under Rule 41(b) for failure to prosecute is a harsh sanction that is only to be used in extreme situations.

In assessing whether to dismiss a case for the plaintiff’s failure to prosecute, a court must consider the length of time the plaintiff knew that the failure to comply would lead to dismissal and whether the defendant is likely to suffer prejudice due to a continued delay in proceedings. The court must also balance its interest in managing the docket with the plaintiff’s interest in being heard and whether other, less stringent sanctions have been adequately considered. The court must evaluate similar considerations when determining whether to dismiss a matter under Rule 37 due to a plaintiff’s failure to comply with a discovery order.

In the subject case, the appellate court found that the trial court appropriately considered these factors and concluded that dismissal was favored. Specifically, the plaintiff had ample notice that his failure to comply with discovery orders would result in a dismissal of his claims, and the court found that he acted willfully in refusing to comply. Thus, the dismissal was affirmed.

Speak to a Trusted Syracuse Attorney

When psychiatrists misdiagnose patients or fail to provide appropriate treatment, it can lead to significant harm. If you were injured by a psychiatrist’s failure to diagnose or treat your illness, it is in your best interest to consult a lawyer as soon as possible. The trusted medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers possess the skills and experience needed to help you seek a just outcome. We can be contacted through our online form or at 315-479-9000 to schedule a meeting.

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