Albany, NY asked in Wrongful Death for New York

Q: If a family member is hurt in an accident with a reckless driver, but later dies because of poor quality medical care,

who is the responsible party?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Ali Shahrestani, Esq.
Ali Shahrestani, Esq.
Answered
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Licensed in New York

A: It sounds like medical negligence was the proximate cause of death, not the car accident.

See: http://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/other-courts/2007/2007-51922.html, case: Chowes v Aslam, 2007 NY Slip Op 51922(U) [17 Misc 3d 1111(A)] Decided on October 11, 2007 Supreme Court, Kings County, which states:

""Evidence of negligence is not enough by itself to establish liability." (Sheehan v City of New York, 40 NY2d 496, 501 [1976].) "It must also be proved that the negligence was the cause of the event which produced the harm sustained by one who brings the complaint." (Id.) "The concept of proximate cause, or more appropriately legal cause" (Derdiarian v Felix Contracting Corp., 51 NY2d 308, 314 [1980]) encompass two different, but related, issues: whether the defendant's negligence "was a substantial cause of the events which produced the injury"; and whether "policy considerations that serve to place manageable limits upon liability that flows from negligent conduct" should preclude liability in the particular case. (See id., at 315.)

"There may be one, or more than one, substantial factor." (Ohdan v City of New York, 268 AD2d 86, 89 [1st Dept 2000].) And "the absence or presence of prima facie proof of proximate cause [is] not dependent on pure logic alone but [is] rather to be determined . . . upon mixed considerations of logic, common sense, justice, policy and precedent." (Sheehan v City of New York, 40 NY2d at 503 [internal quotation marks and citations omitted].) Here, the City and the Bank argue only precedent.

"Where the acts of a third person intervene between the defendant's conduct and the plaintiff's injury, . . . liability turns upon whether the intervening act is a normal or foreseeable consequence of the situation created by the defendant's negligence." (Derdiarian v Felix Contracting Corp., 51 NY2d at 315.) The acts of a third person will be deemed a "superseding cause which interrupted the link between [the defendant's] negligence and plaintiff's injuries" when they are "independent intervening acts which operate upon but do not flow from the original negligence." (Id., at 315-16.) "An intervening act may not serve as a superseding cause, and relieve an actor of responsibility, where the risk of the intervening act occurring is the very same risk which renders the actor negligent." (Id., at 316.)

The relationship between "the foreseeable risk associated with the original negligence" (see id., at 315-16) and both causation-in-fact and proximate cause cannot be over-emphasized. "[T]he element of causation may be said to provide the essential link between negligent conduct and its consequences, between the harm threatened and the harm done." (Sewar v Gagliardi Brothers Service, 51 NY2d 752, 758-59 [1980] [Fuchsberg, J., concurring].) "[W]hat reasonable care requires . . . may both be determined by and be determinative of the question as to whether [an] activity . . . [is] an intervening cause of an accident." (See Quinlan v Cecchini, 41 NY2d 686, 691 [1977].) "Foreseeability bears on both issues." (Id.)"

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