PLAINTIFF’S EXPERT’S AFFIDAVIT IN THIS MEDICAL MALPRACTICE ACTION WAS NOT CONCLUSORY AND THE ACTION SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DISMISSED ON THAT GROUND; A HOSPITAL WILL NOT BE VICARIOUSLY LIABLE FOR SURGERY COMPETENTLY PERFORMED BY HOSPITAL STAFF AT THE DIRECTION OF THE PRIVATE PHYSICIANS WHO DID THE PRIMARY SURGERY (SECOND DEPT).
The Second Department, reversing (modifying) Supreme Court, determined the medical malpractice action against the defendant surgeons should not have been dismissed on the ground plaintiff’s expert’s affidavit was conclusory. The affidavit raised questions of fact about whether defendant surgeon deviated from the requisite standard of care. The court noted that the plaintiff’s expert did not review the pleadings and all the evidence was irrelevant. The court also noted that the action against the hospital based upon the surgical procedures performed by hospital staff was properly dismissed. A hospital will not be vicariously liable where hospital staff competently carry out the orders of the private physicians who did the primary surgery:
… [T]he plaintiffs’ expert’s opinion did not consist of merely general and conclusory allegations unsupported by competent evidence. The plaintiffs’ expert made specific allegations based upon the operative reports and CT scan which were part of the medical records, and addressed specific assertions made [defendants’] expert. …
Although the plaintiffs’ expert did not review the pleadings, and all the evidence, that failure went to the weight, not the admissibility of his opinion . The operative report regarding the hysterectomy was part of the injured plaintiff’s hospital records, was electronically signed by Germain [defendant surgeon], and was relied upon by [defendants’] expert … . Therefore, the plaintiffs’ expert properly relied upon that report in reaching his conclusions. * * *
At the conclusion of the surgery, the physician assisting Germain was replaced by an employee of the hospital. However, by that time, the surgery was over, and the doctors were closing up the injured plaintiff. There is no allegation or evidence that the hospital physician committed malpractice or could have had any influence on the course of the surgery at that juncture.
“Where hospital staff, such as resident physicians and nurses, have participated in the treatment of the patient, the hospital may not be held vicariously liable for resulting injuries where the hospital employees merely carried out the private attending physician’s orders,” except when the hospital staff follows orders knowing that the doctor’s orders are so clearly contraindicated by normal practice that ordinary prudence requires inquiry into the correctness of the orders, the hospital’s employees have committed independent acts of negligence, or the words or conduct of the hospital give rise to the appearance and belief that the physician possesses the authority to act on behalf of the hospital … . Bhuiyan v Germain, 2022 NY Slip Op 06901, Second Dept 12-7-22
Practice Point: Here, in this medical malpractice case, the fact that plaintiff’s expert did not review the pleadings and all the evidence was not a legitimate reason for rejecting the expert’s affidavit. The expert relied on relevant evidence and the affidavit was not conclusory.
Practice Point: A hospital will not be vicariously liable for surgery competently done by hospital staff at the direction of the private physicians who did the primary surgery.