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Pathology Malpractice Claim in New York Illustrates Importance of Expert Witness Testimony

Pathology malpractice occurs when a physician fails to correctly assess a patient’s tissue or fluid sample. The result can delay a diagnosis or lead to the mistreatment of a patient’s medical condition. Often, the determination of whether the pathologist acted negligently turns on very technical details, which is why New York pathology malpractice claims generally require expert testimony to demonstrate the failure of a physician to exercise the requisite standard of care.

Courtroom

The plaintiff underwent a colonoscopy, and after the results came back, the plaintiff was referred to a specialist. The specialist recommended a surgical procedure to remove one side of the colon. The plaintiff consented to the surgery after being apprised of the risks, benefits, and alternatives of the proposed surgery. Following surgery, the pathology report found that the cancer was grade III and poorly differentiated with a maximal thickness of 1.2 cm. Later, the plaintiff complained of severe pain. The conditions suggested an anastomotic leak; however, the surgical pathology report noted no perforations. The leak was then repaired with staples and sutures. The plaintiff and her husband brought a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice.

New York medical malpractice summary judgment proceedings require that the defendant(s) use medical records and competent expert witnesses to show that the defendant(s) did not deviate from accepted medical practice in the treatment of the plaintiff or that the injury was not a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The expert testimony must be supported by facts and tailored to the claims presented. Conclusory statements are insufficient to establish a claim, particularly at the summary judgment stage of proceedings.

The defendants presented evidence to show that the plaintiff was appropriately evaluated, the surgical procedure was appropriate, and the plaintiff was appropriately monitored during and after the surgical procedure. Finally, when the perforation was discovered, there was no delay in readmitting the plaintiff to surgery. The court agreed, and the burden of proof shifted to the plaintiff to show a triable issue of fact.

The plaintiff attempted to rebut the defendants’ prima facie case without expert witnesses, but the court rejected their arguments. The plaintiff’s claims that the surgeon failed to properly repair the plaintiff’s colon, failed to properly suture the initial colonic repair as opposed to stapling and suturing, and should be held to a higher standard of care were all presented without expert testimony. This was ultimately fatal to the plaintiff’s case.

This case illustrates the importance of expert testimony in New York medical malpractice cases. The facts are too complex for non-medical professionals to determine if the standard of care was breached. Having an expert testify is an important part of medical malpractice cases, and an experienced medical malpractice attorney is adept at finding qualified experts to testify in malpractice cases. In particular, claims related to whether the surgical pathology report showed negligence require a technical understanding of the medical practice.

If you or a loved one was injured due to pathology malpractice, call the DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Law Firm at 315-479-9000 or contact us online. Our Syracuse injury attorneys have extensive experience handling pathology malpractice cases. Consultations are always free, and you will never be responsible for attorney fees unless we are able to recover compensation for you.

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New York Court Allows Botched Spinal Surgery Lawsuit to Proceed, Syracuse Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, September 1, 2017

Photo Credit: 12019 [CC0 Creative Commons], via Pixabay

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