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Expert testimony conflicted on the adequacy of neurological care provided. Arrington v. Okesanya, 2022 N.Y. Slip Op. 30116 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2022)


In Arrington v. Okesanya, the defendant moved for summary judgment under CPLR § 3212. The motion sought dismissal of the plaintiff’s medical malpractice complaint, arguing that Dr. Valsamis did not deviate from accepted medical practice during Reyes Pellot Jr.’s hospitalization at Brooklyn Hospital Center (“TBHC”) in 2014.

In a medical malpractice case, summary judgment dismissing the case requires the defendant to demonstrate convincingly that there was no departure from accepted medical practice or that any such departure did not proximately cause the plaintiff’s injuries. If the plaintiff presents evidence contradicting the defendant’s assertions, the court must carefully weigh the merits of both sides before reaching a decision. However, if the plaintiff presents evidence contradicting the defendant’s assertions, the court will likely deny summary judgment and leave it up to the jury to determine which argument is stronger.

Background Facts
Reyes Pellot Jr. initially sought medical care at TBHC due to a high fever and associated symptoms. Medical records indicated he was evaluated in the emergency department and subsequently admitted for further management. During his hospitalization, Pellot received treatment that included monitoring for infection, diagnostic imaging such as CT scans, and consultations with various specialists, including infectious disease and neurology.

Despite these interventions, his condition worsened, leading to additional complications and eventual paralysis. Pellot passed away in April 2015, following complications arising from his medical condition and subsequent treatments. A lawsuit was filed by Barbara Arlington as Administrator of the Estate of Reyes Pellot Jr. The basis of the lawsuit was medical malpractice, alleging that Dr. Helen Valsamis, a consulting physician at Brooklyn Hospital Center, departed from accepted medical practice in her treatment of Pellot which ultimately led to severe and irreversible injuries, including paraplegia.

Whether Dr. Valsamis’s actions constituted a departure from accepted medical practice and if this departure proximately caused Reyes Pellot Jr.’s injuries.

The court denied the defendant’s summary judgment motion.

In denying summary judgment, the court considered several critical factors based on the evidence presented. The court acknowledged that Dr. Helen Valsamis, the defendant in the medical malpractice case, had initially made a prima facie case for summary judgment. This was supported by expert testimony from Dr. Amy Sanders, who asserted that Dr. Valsamis had not deviated from the standard of care in her capacity as a consulting neurologist. Dr. Sanders argued that any alleged injuries were primarily due to the attending physicians not following Dr. Valsamis’ recommendations rather than her own actions.

However, the court found that the plaintiff effectively countered this claim. The plaintiff’s expert neurologist provided contrary opinions, arguing that Dr. Valsamis had indeed departed from the standard of care. Key issues raised included Dr. Valsamis’ alleged failure to conduct necessary tests, communicate urgent concerns, or ensure timely consultations that might have mitigated Pellot’s deteriorating condition.

The court emphasized that in medical malpractice cases where expert opinions conflict on issues of malpractice and causation, credibility and factual determinations must be left to the trier of fact—the jury. Therefore, despite Dr. Valsamis’ initial showing, the court concluded that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding the adequacy of her treatment and its impact on Pellot’s health, warranting a trial rather than summary judgment.

The court’s denial of summary judgment reflects unresolved disputes over Dr. Valsamis’ adherence to medical standards and the causal link to Pellot’s debilitating spinal injuries. With conflicting expert opinions and significant factual issues remaining, the case highlights the necessity for a thorough examination of medical practices and patient outcomes in legal proceedings related to allegations of medical mistakes. Moving forward, the trial will address these critical concerns, seeking to determine accountability and justice for the plaintiff’s allegations of negligence.

If you or someone you care about suspects their paraplegia was caused by medical mistakes, promptly contact an experienced New York spinal injury lawyer for legal guidance.  At Stephen Bilkis & Associates we understand the complexities of medical malpractice cases, and have the knowledge to advocate for the rights of victims to seek justice and compensation for their injuries. Early consultation can help assess the validity of a claim, gather necessary evidence, and initiate legal proceedings if appropriate, helping to ensure the best possible outcome for the affected individual.

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