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New York Appeals Court Affirms Defense Verdict in Malpractice Case

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice cases help victims get compensation for their injuries and pay for the care they need. New York medical malpractice attorneys know, however, that they can be very complex cases. It is not sufficient to show that there was an injury; it must also be shown that the injury was caused by medical negligence or a failure to meet the standards of professional care in the medical community. There are often multiple defendants, such as the hospital and several individual doctors or other health care providers.

Unfortunately, an injured woman’s family recently lost their appeal of a defense verdict in a medical malpractice case. The woman’s then-boyfriend had found her unconscious on the ground after she failed to come back inside his home after going to get something from the car. They got to the hospital a little before 3:00 a.m. A CT scan revealed severe brain injuries. She was transported to another hospital at 5:19 a.m. Sadly, she now has permanent brain damage and requires 24-hour care.

The woman’s parents filed a medical malpractice case, alleging the emergency room doctor failed to consult with a neurosurgeon in a timely manner and failed to promptly arrange the transfer. At trial, the main factual issues involved the timing of what happened at the first hospital. The plaintiffs tried to call an expert in geographical information systems (GIS) to explain the cell phone records of a respiratory therapist who was called to help transport her. The defendants objected, arguing the plaintiffs had not disclosed this expert witness. The court excluded the evidence.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants, finding the emergency room doctor had not negligently failed to promptly consult a neurosurgeon after getting the CT results and that she did not depart from accepted standards of medical care in waiting for the respiratory therapist to arrive before transporting the woman. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing the trial court erred in several of its rulings.

The appeals court considered the exclusion of the GIS expert testimony. The identities of expert witnesses and certain other information must be disclosed to the other party if they demand it. There may be an exception if the party can show good cause, but otherwise, the trial court has considerable discretion to exclude the testimony. The appeals court noted the plaintiffs received the respiratory therapist’s phone number more than a year and a half before trial, so they could have investigated and retained an expert well before trial. The appeals court agreed with the trial court’s finding that the plaintiffs’ failure to recognize the significance of the calls did not constitute good cause. Additionally, the appeals court agreed with the trial court’s finding that the late disclosure would have prejudiced the defendants, due to the complex and technical issues involved with the testimony.

The plaintiffs also challenged the admission of evidence about another patient treated by the emergency room doctor that night. The appeals court found, however, that the plaintiff’s attorney had asked the defendants’ expert whether it was a busy night in the emergency room and whether there was evidence that the doctor’s attention was diverted from the woman because of another patient. The expert testified to having reviewed the emergency department log and noting there was a cardiac arrest while the doctor was working. The trial court had not erred in admitting the patient log. Additionally, the other patient’s treatment records were relevant because the plaintiff’s attorney had raised the question of whether the two patients were being treated contemporaneously. The appeals court also found that even if there were an error in admitting the treatment records, it would not substantially influence the outcome.

The appeals court affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendants.

This case involved a traumatic brain injury and was centered on the timeliness of actions that occurred within a three-hour period. Many malpractice cases, however, can involve acts or omissions that occur over a period of weeks or months. Each malpractice case is different due to the unique facts involved. Here, although the victim’s family has been unsuccessful in the medical malpractice claim, they have reportedly settled with the former boyfriend and his parents, who own the property where the accident occurred. This case illustrates the importance of identifying all potentially responsible parties.

If you have been injured due to the negligence of a medical professional, an experienced New York medical malpractice attorney can help you identify the potentially liable parties and fight for the compensation you deserve. Call the Law Offices of Marc S. Albert at 1.855.252.3788 to discuss your case.

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