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New York Court Factors Weighed in Assessing the Sufficiency of an Expert Report in a Medical Malpractice Case

Medical malpractice cases often hinge on the sufficiency of each party’s expert affidavit. In other words, if the defendant produces expert testimony demonstrating that he or she did not depart from the standard of care, and the plaintiff fails to produce an affidavit that disputes the defendant’s expert’s assertions, the case may be dismissed. A New York appellate court recently discussed the factors considered in determining whether a plaintiff’s expert affidavit is insufficient to prevent dismissal or merely indicates issues that need to be resolved with regards to credibility, in an emergency room malpractice case. If you or a loved one suffered injuries due to inadequate care provided in an emergency room, it is wise to consult a trusted Syracuse emergency room malpractice attorney to discuss your case.

Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Harm

It is alleged that the plaintiff’s decedent was involved in a motor vehicle collision, after which she was removed from her vehicle and transported via ambulance to a nearby high school, where she was then picked up by a helicopter and transferred to the defendant medical center. At the defendant center, she was assessed by the trauma team, and it was determined she was suffering from pericardial tamponade. She was then transferred to an operating room but suffered a cardiac arrest during her transport.

Reportedly, the defendant surgeon performed a thoracotomy and repaired a tear in her atrium while members of the team performed CPR, but the efforts to restore a natural rhythm to the decedent’s heart failed, and she died. The plaintiff commenced a lawsuit against the defendant medical center, and defendant surgeon, alleging medical malpractice. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied. The defendants then appealed.

Factors Weighed in Assessing the Sufficiency of an Expert Report

Upon review, the appellate court discussed the difference between determining if a plaintiff’s expert affidavit is sufficient to withstand summary judgment versus whether it is adequate to allow the plaintiff to prove the defendant’s liability. The court reiterated the long-standing principle that a plaintiff in a medical malpractice action must prove that the defendant departed from the standard of care and that the departure caused the plaintiff’s harm. In turn, a defendant seeking dismissal via summary judgment must either show that no departure occurred or that any departure did not cause the plaintiff’s harm. If the defendant meets this burden, the case will be dismissed unless the plaintiff establishes a triable issue of fact exists.

Here, the appellate court noted that while the defendants met their burden by providing an expert affidavit opining that the defendants did not depart from the standard of care, summary judgment was not appropriate, as the plaintiff’s expert affidavit stated the defendants deviated from the standard by failing to perform the surgery immediately. The court explained that the defendants’ contentions that the plaintiff’s expert was not qualified to set forth an opinion because he misstated facts of record and had not performed surgery in over two decades were issues of credibility to be resolved by a jury, rather than factors that rendered the affidavit insufficient. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak with a Capable Malpractice Attorney

If you sustained harm or suffered the loss of a loved one because of insufficient care in an emergency department, it is in your best interest to speak with a capable Syracuse emergency room malpractice attorney regarding what compensation you may be able to recover. The dedicated malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers possess the skills and experience needed to help you strive for a successful outcome, and we will work diligently on your behalf. You can reach us through our online form or at 315-479-9000 to schedule a meeting.

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