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Delayed aortic transection surgery allegedly led to paraplegia. Lee v. Westchester Cnty. Health Care Corp., 219 A.D.3d 1509 (N.Y. App. Div. 2023)


In a case concerning alleged medical malpractice, the Supreme Court of Westchester County ruled on a motion for summary judgment involving issues surrounding the treatment of a patient following a car accident. A motion for summary judgment to dismiss a medical malpractice lawsuit is a legal maneuver where the defendant argues that the plaintiff’s case lacks merit based on undisputed facts and legal principles. It aims to resolve the case without a full trial by demonstrating that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. This motion is common in medical malpractice cases because it allows defendants to challenge the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s evidence early in the litigation process, potentially saving time and resources by avoiding a lengthy trial if the court agrees with their arguments.

Background Facts
Following a car accident in the early morning hours of August 19, 2014, the plaintiff was transported to Westchester Medical Center by ambulance. There he was attended to by several medical professionals. The plaintiff was diagnosed with an aortic transection around 2:45 a.m., though he remained hemodynamically stable initially. Due to concerns over potential complications, the attending cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Ramin Malekan, delayed surgical intervention until around 5:30 a.m. Subsequently, the plaintiff experienced a critical deterioration in blood flow to his lower extremities, prompting Malekan to proceed with aortic transection repair. Surgery commenced at 9:52 a.m., successfully addressing the aortic injury but resulting in the plaintiff’s permanent paraplegia.

Following the devastating outcome of the surgery, the plaintiff commenced a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice. The lawsuit asserted that the hospital defendants failed in their duty to monitor his condition adequately and delayed necessary surgical intervention, resulting in permanent paraplegia and other significant injuries. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgement to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit which was denied. They appealed.

Whether the hospital defendants adhered to accepted medical practices in monitoring the plaintiff’s condition and deciding the timing of surgical intervention for the aortic transection.

The Supreme Court of Westchester County denied the hospital defendants’ motion for summary judgment to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims of medical malpractice.

The Supreme Court of Westchester County denied the hospital defendants’ motion for summary judgment to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims of medical malpractice primarily due to conflicting expert opinions and unresolved issues of fact. In medical malpractice cases, defendants seeking summary judgment must demonstrate that there was no departure from accepted medical standards or that any alleged departure did not cause the plaintiff’s injuries. The hospital defendants argued that they had acted within the prevailing standard of care by appropriately monitoring the plaintiff’s condition and delaying surgical intervention based on his stable hemodynamic status and associated risks.

However, the court found that the plaintiff’s expert presented sufficient evidence to dispute these claims. The plaintiff’s expert raised concerns about the adequacy of monitoring and the decision to delay surgery, suggesting that these actions deviated from accepted medical practices and directly contributed to the plaintiff’s permanent paraplegia. The court concluded that these disputed issues, including whether the delay in surgery caused or exacerbated the plaintiff’s injuries, required a factual determination by a jury. Therefore, the denial of summary judgment allowed the case to proceed to trial where these disputed issues of fact could be fully examined and adjudicated based on the evidence presented by both parties. When considering a summary dismissal, a judge typically will not make a determination on who’s evidence is stronger when the two sides present conflicting evidence. Instead, the court will deny the motion and leave it up to a jury to make that determination.

If you or a loved one has suffered from medical malpractice resulting in serious injuries like paraplegia, contact a knowledgeable New York spinal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options and help ensure your rights are protected. Stephen Bilkis & Associates has the experience to evaluate your case, advocate on your behalf, and pursue the compensation you deserve for the harm caused.
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