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New York Court Reverses Verdict Finding No Surgical Malpractice as Against the Weight of the Evidence

In most surgical malpractice cases, the plaintiff will elect to have a jury decide whether the defendant doctor should be held liable for the plaintiff’s harm. Juries do not always assess liability accurately, however, and in some cases, a jury will issue a verdict that is in opposition to the clear evidence of the case. If the jury’s verdict is against the weight of the evidence, the court may set it aside, as illustrated in a recent New York surgical malpractice case in which the jury found the defendant was not liable despite substantial evidence that the defendant did not meet the standard of care. If you were harmed by surgical malpractice it is prudent to meet with a proficient Syracuse surgical malpractice lawyer to discuss your case and what damages you may be able to recover.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is alleged that the plaintiff underwent a surgical procedure that was performed by the defendant. During the surgery, the defendant failed to appropriately inspect the plaintiff’s bowel and therefore failed to observe that the plaintiff suffered a perforation in her bowel. The plaintiff subsequently developed peritonitis, fell into a coma, and suffered gastrointestinal, respiratory, and organ failure. She subsequently filed a malpractice lawsuit against the defendant. Following a trial, a jury issued a verdict in favor of the defendant, finding in part that the defendant did not deviate from the applicable standard of care. The plaintiff filed a motion to set aside the verdict, arguing that it was against the weight of the evidence.

Setting Aside a Verdict That is Against the Weight of the Evidence

Under New York law, it is well established that when a verdict is against the weight of the evidence it will be set aside. A verdict will be found to be against the weight of the evidence when the evidence introduced at trial weighed so heavily in favor of the party moving to set aside the verdict, that the jury could not have reached the verdict based upon a fair interpretation of the evidence.

In the subject case, the verdict sheet presented to the jury asked whether the defendant departed from the accepted standard of care by failing to conduct a focused inspection of the entire bowel. Therefore, the measured standard of care was whether the defendant was required to perform a focused bowel inspection. The court noted that neither party nor their expert witnesses defined the term “focused inspection” during the trial.

However, the defendant’s expert and the plaintiff’s expert both testified that the applicable standard of care required a visual inspection of the bowel. Therefore, the court found that the only reasonable interpretation of the term “focused inspection” was a visible inspection of the bowel. As the defendant stated that he could not observe the bowel the court found that he undoubtedly failed to perform a visual inspection and therefore did not comply with the standard of care. Thus, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion and set aside the verdict.

Consult a Trusted Surgical Malpractice Attorney to Discuss Your Harm

If you suffered an injury or illness following a negligently performed surgery you should consult a trusted Syracuse surgical malpractice attorney to discuss your harm. The experienced surgical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers will develop compelling arguments in favor of your recovery of the full amount of compensation you may be owed.  You can contact us at 833-200-2000 or via our online for to set up a conference to discuss your case.


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