A Medical Malpractice Loss, A Legal Malpractice Win

A frequent scenario in medical malpractice litigation is the attorney or firm that takes on a case, assures the client that it has merit, obtains a certificate of merit to file the complaint, goes through discovery, and then fails to hire an expert.  At that point the law firm asks to be relieved, and often that motion is granted.  Whether the reason is that the law firm does not wish to pay the expensive expert fee, or simply wants to settle, but not try cases, is unknown.  What is known is that many a plaintiff has been left high and dry.  When the law firm seeks to get out early enough they are usually allowed to do so.  Here, not so much.

Snyder v Brown Chiari, LLP   2014 NY Slip Op 02363   Decided on April 3, 2014   Appellate Division, Third Department
"In late 2002, plaintiff underwent a surgical procedure and shortly thereafter developed complications that resulted in three further surgeries, none of which was successful. She retained defendants, which commenced a medical malpractice action in March 2004 against the physician who had performed the initial surgery as well as that physician's partnership. In late February 2007, and with a trial date scheduled for early March 2007, defendants attempted to withdraw as counsel to plaintiff because, among other things, an expert had not been retained. Supreme Court (Falvey, J.) denied defendants' motion to withdraw as counsel to plaintiff, granted a motion by the defendants in the medical malpractice action to preclude plaintiff from offering expert testimony at trial and, because a prima facie case could not be established without expert proof, dismissed the medical malpractice action. When plaintiff attempted to obtain her file from defendants, Supreme Court permitted a lien for defendants' disbursements of $7,500.45. "

"Plaintiff stated a cause of action for legal malpractice. Elements of such a cause of action include "establish[ing] both that the defendant attorney failed to exercise the ordinary reasonable skill and knowledge commonly possessed by a member of the legal profession which results in actual damages to a plaintiff, and that the plaintiff would have succeeded on the merits of the underlying action 'but for' the attorney's negligence" (AmBase Corp. v Davis Polk & Wardwell, 8 NY3d 428, 434 [2007] [internal citations omitted]; accord Alaimo v McGeorge, 69 AD3d 1032, 1034 [2010])."

"Here, plaintiff submitted, among other things, an affidavit and attached memorandum from a physician licensed in New York. This physician had been consulted by defendants in 2003, and he produced his memorandum from such time which set forth in ample detail for purposes of opposing a motion to dismiss that plaintiff's surgeon deviated from appropriate care. His affidavit reaffirmed that he believed there was malpractice in the treatment of plaintiff by her surgeon and, further, stated that he had been available to testify at the scheduled 2007 trial, but was never contacted by defendants. Such proof, together with the detailed allegations in the complaint, state a cause of action. "

 

 

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