Medical malpractice lawsuits are, by their nature, complex. Proving negligence on the part of a physician or vicarious liability on the part of a hospital or other health care provider requires a higher burden of proof than cases of ordinary negligence.
Birth injury cases are no different. Pregnancy, labor and delivery can be inherently dangerous, and a poor outcome in and of itself is not enough to prove negligence by a doctor or hospital. What is necessary to show is a deviation from the acceptable standard of care, and proof that breach proximately resulted in the injuries or illness at issue.
Plaintiffs have to be prepared early in such cases – far in advance of trial – with expert witness testimony backing their assertion of medical negligence and proximate cause. A judge will be tasked with weighing the strength of this evidence prior to trial to determine whether the claim meets the minimum standards necessary to move on to the next phase.
Our Manhattan medical malpractice attorneys carefully review cases we take on because we believe injured persons have the right to understand early in the process whether they have a good chance of succeeding.
In the recent case of Barrocales v. New York Methodist Hospital, plaintiff was pregnant with twin in the spring of 2001 when she was admitted to a local hospital for symptoms consistent with preterm labor. She was discharged from the hospital the same day, but returned little more than a week later with the same symptoms. She remained hospitalized for 10 days, at the end of which she prematurely gave birth to twins.
There is no dispute of the fact the twins suffered a number of injuries and developmental delays as a result of premature birth. The issue was the degree to which – if any – plaintiff’s private physician was responsible.
Plaintiff asserted her doctor failed to take certain steps in order to prevent or delay the premature birth. However, the doctor successfully argued despite the negative outcome, he did not deviate from the appropriate standard of care, and to whatever extent he did deviate, it was not the cause of the twins’ injuries.
Plaintiff also asserted the hospital was vicariously liable. However, hospital asserted it couldn’t be held liable for the actions of a private physician who was not an employee, even if the alleged malpractice occurred at its facility.
Trial court agreed with defendants on both points, and that decision was later upheld by the appellate division. The court ruled plaintiff’s expert witness testimony was largely speculative, lacking in reasonable medical certainty and, in some instances, self-contradictory.
Defendant’s legal reasoning on the issue of vicarious liability of the hospital, the appellate court found, was sound.
Although a disappointing outcome for plaintiff in this case, it illustrates the sometimes uphill battle claimants face in these instances. They are indeed possible to win, but you must have an experienced legal team by your side.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Barrocales v. New York Methodist Hospital, Nov. 12, 2014, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department
More Blog Entries:
New York Birth Injury Plaintiff Granted Late Claim Notice Exception, Dec. 4, 2014, Manhattan Birth Injury Lawyer Blog