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Court determines that Government Entity’s Actual Knowledge Justifies Late Notice of Claim. A.M. v. N.Y.C. Health & Hosps. Corp. 212 A.D.3d 449 (N.Y. App. Div. 2023)

Medical malpractice cases involve complex legal and medical issues. In A.M. v. N.Y.C. Health & Hosps. Corp. 212 A.D.3d 449 (N.Y. App. Div. 2023), the Supreme Court of Bronx County considered a case involving birth injuries, specifically Erbs Palsy.
Erb’s palsy, also known as Erb-Duchenne palsy, is a condition that occurs when there is damage to the brachial plexus, a network of nerves near the neck that controls movement and sensation in the shoulder, arm, and hand. This damage can occur during childbirth, typically when there is excessive pulling on the infant’s head and neck during delivery. Erb’s palsy can result in weakness or paralysis of the affected arm, as well as loss of sensation. Treatment for Erb’s palsy may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and in some cases, surgery. The outlook for individuals with Erb’s palsy varies depending on the severity of the condition, but many people are able to regain some or all function in the affected arm with appropriate treatment and therapy.

Background Facts
The case began with the birth of the infant plaintiff, A.M., at a facility managed by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. On the day of A.M.’s birth, medical records noted that the infant had right-side Erbs palsy and a brachial plexus injury. These injuries were identified immediately after birth and required follow-up with neurology. The plaintiffs alleged that these injuries were the result of medical malpractice during the delivery process.

Following the birth, the plaintiffs faced various challenges. Mary Mbah, the infant plaintiff’s mother, also claimed emotional and psychological trauma due to the alleged malpractice. The plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to file a late notice of claim, which was necessary to proceed with the lawsuit against the defendant. The defendant, in response, filed a cross-motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to file the notice in a timely manner.

The medical records, which the defendant had since the time of the alleged malpractice, indicated that the defendant had actual knowledge of the essential facts regarding the infant plaintiff’s claims. The records documented the infant’s injuries, including the right-side Erbs palsy and brachial plexus injury, immediately after birth. Given this knowledge, the court had to determine whether the delay in filing the notice of claim was justified and whether it caused substantial prejudice to the defendant.

The case before the Supreme Court of New York involved a motion for leave to file a late notice of claim by the plaintiffs, who alleged medical malpractice against the defendants. The issue at hand was whether the plaintiffs should be permitted to file a late notice of claim for their claims regarding infant plaintiff’s brachial plexus injury, despite the expiration of the deadline for such notice.

Because Westchester Medical Center is operated by Westchester County, a government entity, New York law requires that a notice of claim must be filed before a lawsuit can proceed against it. This notice serves as a formal notification to the government entity of the intention to sue, detailing the basis of the claim, such as medical malpractice in this instance.

Under New York State law, there are strict timelines for filing a notice of claim, typically within 90 days of the alleged incident. This requirement allows the government entity, like Westchester Medical Center, to investigate the claim promptly, gather relevant evidence, and assess potential liability.

In this case, the plaintiff sought permission to file a late notice of claim beyond the statutory deadline. The Supreme Court of New York had to evaluate whether the plaintiff demonstrated a reasonable excuse for the delay and whether the government entity, Westchester Medical Center, would suffer prejudice from the late filing. The court’s decision hinged on these factors to determine whether the plaintiff’s request for late filing should be granted, allowing the lawsuit to proceed despite the initial failure to meet the notice requirement within the prescribed timeframe.

The Supreme Court of New York resolved this issue by granting the plaintiffs’ motion for leave to file a late notice of claim. The court found that the defendants had actual knowledge of the essential facts of the plaintiffs’ claims regarding the infant plaintiff’s injury, as evidenced by the medical records in their possession since the time of the alleged malpractice. The court also noted that the defendants did not raise any substantial prejudice they would suffer if required to defend against the complaint’s allegations regarding the infant plaintiff’s injuries on the merits. Therefore, the court concluded that the plaintiffs should be allowed to file a late notice of claim, as there was no substantial prejudice to the defendants and the essential facts of the claim were known to them.

Medical malpractice cases can be intricate and challenging to pursue. If you or a loved one has been affected by medical malpractice, it is essential to seek legal advice from an experienced New York medical malpractice lawyer who can help you understand your rights, gather necessary evidence, and file the required legal documents in a timely manner.


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