Defendants who lose medical malpractice cases at trial may have grounds to appeal the jury’s decision. Although the level of an appeals court’s discretion varies, the standard of review often requires a certain level of deference to the jury’s decision, and as a result, studies show that more cases are affirmed on appeal than overturned. That was not the outcome, however, in a recent New York medical malpractice case, in which the court decided that the $3.1 million awarded to the plaintiffs at trial was excessive.
The trial court ruled that the defendant, St. Peter’s Hospital, departed from the standard of care for accepted medical practice when two nurses failed to carry out a doctor’s order to conduct a CCT scan to rule out a lumbar bleed. This departure from the standard of care was determined to be a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injury. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $3.1 million, $2.3 million of which was allocated to the plaintiff’s pain and suffering and $750,000 of which was allocated to loss of consortium.
The defendant appealed the decision. The appeals court first considered whether a new trial could be granted for the defendant. New York law provides that the court may only set aside a jury verdict if the verdict is not supported by legally sufficient evidence. The defendant asserted that the plaintiffs’ expert allegedly perjured herself by signing an affidavit regarding the issue of proximate cause when she lacked such qualifications. The appeals court noted that the jury decided this issue at trial and that therefore the court declined to grant the defendant’s motion for a new trial.
However, the appeals court considered another issue, in addition to the defendant’s motion for a new trial. Under Civil Practice Law & Rules Section 4404(a), the trial court has the power to review the jury’s verdict on the issue of damages to determine whether it was against the weight of the evidence and to set aside such an award of damages if it deviated materially from what would be reasonable compensation.
The appeals court found that the damages awarded to the plaintiffs were excessive. The court reviewed New York jury verdicts for similar types of injuries and determined that the reasonable compensation for the plaintiff’s injury was $600,000, and the reasonable compensation for the loss of consortium claim was $200,000.
The parties were given 45 days to stipulate to the decrease in the jury award, or the defendant is directed to notify the appeals court of its request for a new trial on the issue of damages.
If you or a loved one has suffered from medical malpractice, it’s important to be in contact with an experienced attorney to navigate the New York court system. Medical malpractice lawsuits are frequently highly technical and require adherence to court procedure. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, we have a proven record of results in obtaining settlements and verdicts for people injured by medical mistakes in Syracuse and all over Upstate New York. Call us today for a free initial consultation.
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