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New York Court Examines Proximate Cause in Medical Malpractice Cases

People who suffer losses following incompetent medical care will often seek damages from their healthcare providers. In order to recover compensation, though, they must establish proximate cause, which means that they must connect the inadequate care in question to their ultimate harm. In a recent new York medical malpractice opinion, the court discussed what evidence is needed to meet this burden of proof. If you were hurt by a careless doctor, you may be owed damages, and you should talk to a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer.

Factual and Procedural History

It is alleged that the plaintiff initiated a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant physician, among others, alleging negligence in the treatment of the decedent, who died by suicide. The defendant had treated the decedent in the days and weeks preceding the death, including an office visit on the day of the death. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant deviated from the standard of care by not referring the decedent to the emergency room the day before their death.

Reportedly, a jury found the defendant’s actions were a substantial factor in causing the death and awarded the plaintiff almost $10 million in damages. The defendant then filed a motion to set aside the verdict on the grounds of both the departure from the standard of care and proximate cause, seeking judgment as a matter of law to dismiss the complaint against him. Alternatively, the defendant requested a new trial on liability and damages. The trial court granted the motion concerning proximate cause, concluding that the evidence did not sufficiently establish a link between the defendant’s actions and the death, and dismissed the complaint against the defendant. The plaintiff appealed.

Proving Proximate Cause in Medical Malpractice Cases

On appeal, the court reviewed the trial court setting aside the verdict, noting that the applicable rule allows for judgment as a matter of law only when no rational process could lead a jury to the given conclusion based on the evidence presented.

The court noted that to prove medical malpractice, a plaintiff must show a deviation from accepted practice and that such deviation was a proximate cause of injury. The court found that the jury’s conclusion—that the defendant’s failure to refer the decedent to the emergency room was a substantial factor in the decedent’s death—was reasonable based on the evidence.

Here, the plaintiff’s expert testified that the decedent’s suicide could have been prevented with appropriate medical intervention and that referral to the emergency room would likely have resulted in hospital admission. The court found that this testimony provided a rational basis for the jury’s verdict. Thus, the court reversed the trial court’s judgment, reinstated the jury’s verdict, and remitted the matter to the trial court for further consideration of the remaining aspects of the defendant’s motion, including challenges to the standard of care, the weight of the evidence, and the issue of damages.

Confer with a Trusted Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you sustained injuries because of incompetent treatment, you should confer with an attorney to determine whether you could be able to recover compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The trusted Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano , Personal Injury Lawyers, can advise you of your options and help you to seek a favorable outcome.  You can contact us at 833-200-2000 or via the form online to arrange a meeting.

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