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Medical Malpractice and New York City’s Public Hospitals

By Edward A. Ruffo

There are 11 hospitals owned and operated by the city of New York – Bellevue Hospital Center, Elmhurst Hospital Center, Harlem Hospital Center, Jacobi Hospital Center, Kings County Hospital Center, Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, Metropolitan Health Center, and North Central Bronx Hospital.

In fiscal year 2023, there were 398 medical malpractice claims filed and claim settlements and judgments in 2023 amounted to $51.5 million. One plaintiff alleged that a hospital failed to properly manage and treat their mother’s cervical condition, which resulted in an amniotic infection and premature birth of the infant plaintiff at 23 weeks. Consequently, the infant plaintiff experienced severe and permanent physical and mental issues and required 24-hour care. The case went to trial and settled during jury deliberations for $7.75 million.

Statute of Limitations for NY Medical Malpractice Claims

In the state of New York, a medical malpractice claim must be filed within 30 months of the medical error. The start of this 30-month period can be delayed or “tolled,” however, if the plaintiff did not actually discover the medical malpractice until a later date, which is a common scenario.

Sovereign Immunity Law

In some scenarios, a private citizen may not sue a governmental entity due to sovereign immunity law. However, New York allows an exception to sovereign immunity. If someone wants to sue a governmental entity such as a public hospital, they must provide that entity with written notice after the claim arises. If the injury or error is not known within that time frame, the case may not be heard.

Late Notice of Claims in New York

However, in a 2020 law review note, Jessica Simon cited a 1979 case where an “unsupervised” resident at a public hospital performed an improper breech birth of twins. Both children subsequently experienced developmental disabilities. But it was only about a decade later that the parents learned their children’s condition was likely the result of the resident’s mistake.

Ultimately, Simon noted, the courts granted the parents leave to file a late notice of claim. They were able to proceed with their lawsuit and recovered a substantial sum on behalf of their children. Still, as Simon pointed out, the parents would never have had to jump through this additional legal hoop had they sued a private hospital as opposed to one owned by a public corporation.

Any medical malpractice claim is complex, especially if the injured party has to file a claim against a public institution such as a public hospital. That is why it is important to consult with an experienced New York City medical malpractice lawyer with trial experience.

Our law firm has a long history of successfully handling medical malpractice claims on behalf of our clients. If you or a loved one think you may have a medical malpractice claim, contact us for a free initial consultation.

Picture of Edward A. Ruffo, Partner

Edward A. Ruffo, Partner

Mr. Ruffo currently litigates cases at the state and federal levels in New York and New Jersey and has obtained numerous multi-million dollar medical damage awards for his clients. He has been annually ranked as a Top 10 and Top 100 Trial Lawyer by numerous professional societies including The National Trial Lawyers Association.

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