September 12, 2012

On 19 October 1970, a doctor performed a surgical excision of a node

On 19 October 1970, a doctor performed a surgical excision of a node from plaintiff's neck. Allegedly, during the operation on plaintiff’s neck, the surgeon negligently injured a spinal-accessory nerve in her neck and also injured branches of her cervical plexus. Following the operation, plaintiff told her surgeon that she was experiencing numbness in the right side of her face and neck and that it was difficult and painful for her to raise her right arm. The physician was allegedly aware of the negligent manner in which he had performed the surgery and, as a result, plaintiff suffered a potentially permanent personal injury; that the physician willfully, falsely and fraudulently told plaintiff that her post-operative problems, pain and difficulties were transient and that they would disappear if she would continue a regimen of physiotherapy which he had prescribed and which was then being given by another doctor. Consequently, plaintiff continued with the physiotherapy prescribed by the subject doctor until October 1974. Meanwhile, she had moved to Syracuse, New York, where she sought further medical advice. In January 1974, she was first apprised by the Syracuse physician of the true nature of her injury and that it probably had been caused at the time of her surgery. This doctor's diagnosis was substantially confirmed in October 1974 by a professor of medicine, specializing in neurology, at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, who also advised that reanastomosis of the sectioned nerve four years after the surgery would not be a physiologically successful procedure. Allegedly, the doctor who performed the surgery on plaintiff had intentionally withheld information as to the true nature and source of her injury, thus, she was deprived of the opportunity for a cure of her condition.

Sometime in April 1976, the present personal injury action against the surgical doctor was commenced. Prior to service of an answer, the doctor moved to dismiss the complaint under CPLR 3211 on the ground that the cause or causes of action alleged were barred by the Statute of Limitations. Plaintiff then cross-moved for leave to amend her complaint to include a cause of action for malpractice.

The Supreme Court in Westchester denied defendant's motion to dismiss and granted the plaintiff leave to amend her complaint, as requested. On appeal, the Appellate Division reversed, granted defendant's motion and dismissed the complaint. Plaintiff thereupon appealed the said decision.

The Ruling:

Here, the court finds that the complaint by the patient against her treating physician sets forth a cause of action based on intentional fraud as well as a cause of action in negligence for medical malpractice. Further, by reason of the physician's alleged subsequent intentional concealment of the malpractice and misrepresentation as to its cure, the time within which the action in negligence could be brought was not limited to the then applicable three-year statutory period of limitations and that, on the present motion to dismiss the complaint, it cannot be said that the action was not commenced within a reasonable time after discovery of the malpractice. Moreover, the Statute of Limitations applicable to the claim for damages based on the intentional fraud is the six-year statute. Different measures of damages are applicable to the two causes of action.

Clearly, the complaint sufficiently sets forth two causes of action, although not explicitly or separately denominated, one in negligence for medical malpractice on the part of the surgical doctor in connection with the surgical excision of the node and the other for an intentional tort in knowingly and fraudulently misinforming plaintiff as to her physical condition and misrepresenting that physiotherapy would produce a cure.

The complaint sufficiently sets forth a cause of action for medical malpractice; the critical issue is whether such cause of action was barred by the then applicable three-year Statute of Limitations. Normally the statute would have precluded institution in April 1976 of a claim for damages for malpractice alleged to have occurred in October 1970. Nonetheless, this complaint further alleges that defendant intentionally concealed the alleged malpractice from plaintiff and falsely assured her of effective treatment, as a result of which plaintiff did not discover the injury to the nerve until October 1974. In this case, principles of equitable estoppel are applicable to relieve plaintiff from the proscriptions of the statute. It has been ruled that fraudulent representations may play a dual role. They may be the basis for an independent action for fraud and they may also, in equity, be a basis for an equitable estoppel barring the defendants from invoking the statute of limitations as against a cause of action for breach of fiduciary relations.

In the instant case, the elements of reliance by plaintiff on the alleged misrepresentations as the cause of her failure sooner to institute the action for malpractice and of justification for such reliance, both necessarily to be established by her, are sufficiently pleaded within the fair intendment of the allegations of this complaint. In passing, the court observes that, if it is established that plaintiff is not precluded from prosecuting the cause of action in negligence and she proves that cause on the merits, the measure of damages which she will be entitled to recover will be that normally associated with medical malpractice actions in situations such as the present.

The issue now is the claim of fraud as an intentional tort. The essential elements, here alleged or within the reasonable intendment of the complaint, are knowledge on the part of the physician of the fact of his malpractice and of his patient's injury in consequence thereof, coupled with a subsequent intentional, material misrepresentation by him to his patient known by him to be false at the time it was made, and on which the patient relied to his damage in this case, defendant's intentionally concealing from his patient the fact of the malpractice and thereafter fraudulently misstating that the therapy prescribed would effect a cure. This is more than another aspect of the malpractice or even another act of alleged negligent malpractice on the part of the treating physician; the complaint alleges an intentional fraud that the surgical doctor, knowing it to be untrue yet expecting his patient to rely on his advice, advised her that physiotherapy would produce a cure, in consequence of which fraudulent misrepresentation the patient was deprived of the opportunity for cure of the condition initially caused by the doctor's alleged malpractice. If these allegations are proved they will establish an intentional tort, separate from and subsequent to the malpractice claim. Recovery of damages in such case is governed by the six-year Statute of Limitations under CPLR 213. The application of the three-year Statute of Limitations is not mandated by the circumstance that the fraud alleged arises as a sequel to an alleged malpractice.

Thus, in the case at bar, if it can be shown that at the time of the surgical doctor’s alleged fraudulent misrepresentations it was already too late to undertake a reanastomosis of the severed nerve, this plaintiff will have sustained little or no damages in consequence of the alleged fraud. If only a partial cure were then possible, damages would be assessable on that basis. Recovery would be greatest if plaintiff were diverted from what could otherwise have been a complete cure.

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July 15, 2012

Case Involving Medical Students Evaluated

A surgeon is being sued for medical malpractice after errors during two separate surgeries. The patient claims that errors made during the procedures caused unnecessary pain and suffering along with economic damages including lost wages and additional medical bills. The surgeon’s case relies on the fact that he is exempt from liability because he was teaching at the time, explains a Lawyer.

At the time of the medical errors, the surgeon was being watched by a medical student. The doctor did receive compensation for the procedures. The debate in Westchester resolves around whether the doctor’s activities were classified as volunteer activities, even though he was paid for his time, which would exempt him from personal liability and only allowed the patient to seek monetary damages from the medical school. The determination of liability in this case has wide implications for doctors and medical schools nationwide.

A judgment against the Bronx doctor in this case could result in higher medical malpractice rates for all doctors, while a judgment against the medical school could increase the costs of training future doctors. At this point, there is little question that errors occurred in the performance of the procedures, states a doctor. The second surgery was performed because of errors during the first procedures – further errors during the procedure resulted in permanent physical disfigurement.

Lawyers are closely following this case as its results will have wide implications in any procedures done in the presence of medical students. This case is different than the majority of medical malpractice cases because of the fact that no one is denying that errors were made, explains a report. In this case, each party is trying to deny liability for the error, resulting in a different tact in this trial.

Meanwhile, the man has yet to receive compensation for his pain and resulting financial difficulties. Medical malpractice cases can often be lengthy, as this one has been, since it has already gone through several appeals. In the case, despite the obvious errors, the case may drag on for years due to the two parties, the university and the doctor, both trying to avoid liability for the error.

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February 10, 2012

Chargers Team Doctor Sacked With $2.2 Million Lawsuit

A former patient of David Chao, the Chargers Team doctor, recently received a $2.2 million settlement by an arbitration panel. The panel found Chao negligent when he performed her hip operation in May of 2007. The patient claims that Chao lacerated her femoral artery, vein and nerve, causing chronic pain and a limp.

This is not the first time that Chao, a 46-year old doctor, has been sued in recent months stated a doctor. In 2009 a male patient sued him and other care providers after a knee replacement surgery, which also took place in 2007. The man reported that Chaos carelessness resulted in an amputation of the leg. Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla agreed to a $1.39 million settlement, according to report.

Chao has been sued 20 times since 1998 by various patients, ranging from charges off malpractice to personal injury, fraud, or negligence. At least eight have been settled with payouts to the plaintiffs.

Last year the federal drug enforcement agents searched Chaos office and found an alleged 108 prescriptions that Chao had written for himself. He has also been accused of writing prescriptions for a former Chargers doctor who was dismissed in 1998 for an alleged narcotic addiction. Chao was required to pay a $1,000 fine for his involvement in that case, and his inability to maintain accurate medical records, reports a source.

Chao, who is an orthopedic surgeon, has operated on many professional athletes, has served as the doctor for the USA rugby team, and for the Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment. He has had complaints filed against him for abusing alcohol and unprofessional conduct from two DUI charges. Chao has denied all accusations against himself in the court records. The settlements are not considered admissions of liability for medical malpractice. Hospitals in New York City and Westchester County try to caution their staffs about these mistakes.

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December 31, 2011

Malpractice Lawsuits are on the rise

Nearly 70 percent of doctors over the age of 50 have been sued according the American Medical Association, reported a study. He went on to say that many of these claims are dismissed but 95 out of 100 doctors will be sued at some point in their career.

These staggering numbers will likely harm doctor’s ability to provide their patience with quality care claimed a representative for the American Medical Association. He added that our country continues to work hard to reduce unnecessary health care costs and these statistics just don’t help.

In a survey conducted by the AMA, it was clear that certain types of doctors or surgeons were much more likely to be sued than others. General Surgeons, OBGYNs men doctors, and practice owners were most likely to be sued, whereas Pediatricians, women doctors, younger doctors and Psychologists were least likely to be sued. Only about 5 percent of doctors are sued per year, a study pointed out.

While more than half of these claims are dismissed, advocates estimate the average defense costs between $22,000 and $100,000.

"Even though the vast majority of claims are dropped or decided in favor of physicians, the understandable fear of meritless lawsuits can influence what specialty of medicine physicians practice, where they practice and when they retire," the advocate added.

In an effort to improve patient care and decrease the number of malpractice lawsuits, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality donated $25 million, which includes grants that should help cover these costs

The survey was funded by the AMA and more than 40 national medical specialty associations including many in Westchester and New York City.

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October 18, 2011

Doctor Operated on Wrong Eye of Young Child

A 4 year old requiring eye surgery has recently had the wrong eye operated on due to a mix up at the hospital. It’s not clear whether or not his sight will be permanently damaged.
A surgeon recently operated on the wrong eye of a 4 year old Child, explains a New York Medical Malpractice Lawyer. The child may suffer permanent sight problems as a result of this. The surgery was supposed to be a fairly simple procedure, but it was overly complicated due to the confusion.
The doctor who operated on the wrong eye said that she simply made a mistake. According to the court notes read by the investigator the nurse ended up covering up a mark on the eye showing which eye needed surgery.
According to a well-known New York Medical Malpractice Lawyer, this answer simply isn’t good enough. Doctors should check several times before cutting anything. The rest of the medical staff including other doctors and nurses should also check and double check the information before starting the operation.
The surgeon ultimately discovered here mistake. She then continued to operate on the correct eye. It is claimed that the correct procedure would have been to inform the parents and ask for consent.
The way that the parents were treated was very poor. They were not told what was going on until it was actually happening. Also nobody stayed with them to discuss their concerns.
The original operation was simply supposed to correct the one eye as it wandered. However, this simple procedure has now become highly complex.
The long term effects of this are not currently known. It is hoped that both of his eyes will make a full recovery. The boy has small red marks in the whites of the eyes. This means that he has to put eye drops into his eyes several times per day.
Surgeons should never operate on the wrong side or part of the body. But unfortunately this type of human error does happen occasionally even in hospitals in Staten Island and Westchester County. This is a very common example of medical malpractice.
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