May 21, 2020

The Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department (“New York Appellate Court”) held in its decision dated March 4, 2020 that the New York medical malpractice defendants were entitled to summary judgment because the plaintiff’s medical expert, who specialized in internal medicine with a subspecialty in cardiovascular disease, had no stated familiarity with emergency medicine.

The New York Appellate Court further held that the plaintiff’s expert’s opinion was based, in part, upon an incorrect statement of the facts and assertions contradicted by the medical records, and he failed to address or rebut the opinions of the defendants’ two experts. Thus, “the affirmation of the plaintiffs’ expert was insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the defendants deviated from the accepted standard of care, and whether any deviation was a proximate cause of the decedent’s death.”

The Underlying Facts

The 51-year-old decedent, who had a history of high blood pressure since he was a teenager, had gone to the defendant hospital’s emergency room on October 20, 2009, complaining of a mild cough with right-sided chest pain, general malaise, and a feverish feeling with chills. The decedent reported that six months before seeking treatment at the defendant hospital, he had discontinued taking his hypertension medications. The physician who examined the decedent and ordered various medical tests in the emergency room arrived at a differential diagnosis that included chest pain and an abnormal electrocardiogram.

The decedent was admitted to the defendant hospital’s telemetry unit where he underwent further testing and treatment for what was described as a hypertensive crisis, acute congestive heart failure, and hypertensive nephrosclerosis. By October 23, 2009, the decedent’s hypertensive crisis had resolved and he was discharged with follow-up instructions and he was prescribed several medications to address his hypertension.

Approximately three hours after discharge, the decedent returned to the defendant hospital’s emergency room by ambulance because he immediately felt dizzy and lightheaded after taking the prescribed medications. However, by the time the defendant arrived at the hospital, his symptoms had dissipated and he did not have chest pain. The decedent underwent further medical testing after which he was told that his symptoms were likely an allergic reaction to two of the medications he was prescribed for his hypertension. Since the reaction had dissipated and the decedent did not have any current complaints, the decedent was discharged with instructions to stop taking the hypertension medications and to promptly follow up with his primary care physician.

On October 24, 2009, several hours after being discharged from the defendant hospital, the decedent was taken by ambulance to another hospital with complaints of weakness, shortness of breath, a cough, and sweating. The decedent underwent various medical tests and was observed at 7:00 a.m. with a facial droop, tachycardia, and increased shortness of breath. The decedent was diagnosed with a stroke affecting his right side. On November 1, 2009, the decedent suffered a heart attack and died.

The New York medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the defendants failed to properly evaluate the decedent in the defendant hospital’s emergency room initially, while admitted at the defendant hospital, and upon his return to the emergency room. The plaintiff further alleged that the failures amounted to a deviation from accepted medical practice and constituted a proximate cause of the decedent’s death.

The defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint as to the medical malpractice allegations. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion, after which the plaintiff filed an appeal that was unsuccessful for the reasons stated above.

Source Messeroux v. Maimonides Medical Center, 2020 NY Slip Op 01487.

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