The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant doctor’s (Sourour’s) motion to set aside the verdict in the interest of justice in this medical malpractice action should have been granted. The evidence supported the jury’s finding that the failure to do diagnostic testing decreased the plaintiff’s chance of a better outcome. During the trial Sourour sought to but was precluded from cross-examining plaintiff’s expert about whether other doctors who consulted on the case also departed from accepted practice by not performing the additional diagnostic testing. That was deemed reversible error:
“A motion pursuant to CPLR 4404(a) to set aside a verdict and for a new trial in the interest of justice encompasses errors in the trial court’s rulings on the admissibility of evidence, mistakes in the charge, misconduct, newly discovered evidence, and surprise” … . “In considering such a motion, [t]he Trial Judge must decide whether substantial justice has been done, whether it is likely that the verdict has been affected . . . and must look to his [or her] own common sense, experience and sense of fairness rather than to precedents in arriving at a decision” … . …
If, as Sourour proposes, a jury were to find that these doctors departed from accepted medical practice and that their departures were a substantial factor in depriving the decedent of a chance for an improved outcome, they could be found at fault together with Sourour … . As a result, any evidence as to the culpability of these doctors was relevant under CPLR 1601(1) … . The court’s error in precluding testimony on this issue deprived Sourour of “substantial justice” … . Schuster v Sourour, 2022 NY Slip Op 04317, Second Dept 7-6-22
Practice Point: Here the defendant doctor’s failure to do further diagnostic testing for cancer was deemed to have decreased the chance of a better outcome. Therefore the plaintiff’s verdict was supported by the evidence and properly survived a motion set aside as a matter of law. However, the judge erroneously precluded cross-examination of plaintiff’s expert about whether the other doctors who consulted on plaintiff’s treatment departed from accepted practice failing to order further diagnostic testing. If so, fault would have been shared pursuant to CPLR 1601.