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Diagnostic Lab Wins Appeal on its Motion to Dismiss $6 Million Pathology Malpractice Case

Case Study

Diagnostic Lab Wins Appeal on its Motion to Dismiss $6 Million Pathology Malpractice Case

A clinical diagnostic lab beat back a plaintiff’s $6 million demand — and avoided the additional expense and risk of a complex mediation and subsequent trial — with a successful appeal before the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department.

In this high-value medical malpractice matter, a Syracuse-based obstetrician/gynecologist (now deceased) brought suit against his treating dermatologist and a specialist from New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital alleging failure to diagnose cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), a cancer of the immune system that manifests on the skin. Several years later — after the statute of limitations had elapsed — the decedent’s executor attempted to bring suit against the clinical diagnostic lab that interpreted the decedent’s biopsy for his treating dermatologist.

To evade the statute of limitations, the plaintiff’s attorney alleged fraud and fraudulent concealment — in essence, that the clinical diagnostic lab had knowledge of malpractice and had made a subsequent material, intentional misrepresentation to the patient. Goldberg Segalla partner Albert J. D’Aquino and associate Aaron M. Schiffrik, defending the lab, moved to dismiss the suit based on the absence of any viable claim of fraud or fraudulent misrepresentation — but the Supreme Court judge denied the motion.

The decedent expired with an estimated 10 years of work expectancy remaining, with an annual income in excess of $350,000; he also left behind four young dependents, and the plaintiff’s attorney could have made claims for pain and suffering and fear of impending death. The plaintiff’s demand was $6 million. Approaching a scheduled mediation, the full value of the case was an estimated $6-10 million.

The matter never made it to mediation, though: Albert and Aaron appealed the case to the Fourth Department, arguing again that the plaintiff’s complaint as drafted failed to allege a viable fraud or fraudulent concealment claim, and that the malpractice claim was thus time-barred. The Fourth Department judge agreed in full, concluding that the Supreme Court had erred in denying our motion. This decision definitively put our client beyond the reach of the plaintiff’s claims, and cleanly resolved the matter before what would potentially have been a contentious and complicated mediation followed by a risky trial.