Can a doctor’s prior bad act come into play in your medical malpractice case in the state of New York?
Was the Doctor Sued Before?
When you are bringing a medical malpractice case against a doctor, you are claiming that at a particular time and at a particular day, the doctor violated the basic standards of medical care, and because of that, you suffered different harms and losses. Now, many people want to know whether the doctor has been sued before. They also want to know if those past lawsuits against the doctor have resulted in payments to the patients through settlements or ultimate verdicts.
The mere fact that somebody has brought a lawsuit against a doctor in the past is not evidence that there was wrongdoing. Clearly, somebody believed that there was something wrong done by the doctor, and the doctor has the opportunity to defend himself from such cases and claims.
Even if a case was settled, we cannot use prior settlements or settlement results to show that the doctor deviated or violated the standards of medical care in the present case. This is so because a past settlement is not a tool that your lawyer is permitted to use as definitive evidence in your particular case.
There is an Exception
Now, on the other hand, if the doctor fought a case that went to verdict and lost, then it can be shown to the jury for the present case in limited instances. Your lawyer can use this specifically to determine:
To establish what the facts were in that particular case
If they are similar then try to relate them to the present matter
However, all this is possible only if the past case had a verdict, the jury rendered a decision, all the appeals are exhausted, and there was a final conclusion that the doctor was responsible for causing harm to somebody else.
Even when the doctor has lost the case on verdict, and if the two cases and their facts are very different, it will be very difficult to show a similarity. Just because the doctor had a lawsuit filed against him that he lost, this does not necessarily bode well for you. In your case, the doctor may not have made a similar mistake or violated any standard of care.
Even though you and your lawyer would like to show this and make the jury believe this, the reality is the court will not allow you to create that presumption.
Therefore, even if somebody had lawsuits against him or her in the past, which were defended and settled, then that information is not enough for you to use in your particular case. However, if the past case went to verdict, and the verdict was final, all appeals are over, and it is definitively proven that the doctor violated the standard of care that resulted in harm, then there is a possibility that you can utilize this information to bolster your case.
Nevertheless and most importantly it should be similar to what occurred in your case or your attempt to mar this doctor based on this old lawsuit will be shot down by the court.