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Donnelly v. Parikh

Supreme Court of New York, Second Department

May 10, 2017

Jaye Donnelly, appellant,
v.
Surakant Parikh, etc., et al., defendants, Long Island Medical Imaging, P.C., et al., respondents. Index No. 27177/09

          Pegalis & Erickson, LLC, Lake Success, NY (Robert V. Fallarino and Linda M. Oliva of counsel), for appellant.

          Shaub, Ahmuty, Citrin & Spratt, LLP, Lake Success, NY (Christopher Simone, Tiffany A. Miao, and Jonathan P. Shaub of counsel), for respondents Long Island Medical Imaging, P.C., Long Island Magnetic Resonance Imaging, P.C., and Albert Zilkha.

          Rivkin Radler LLP, Uniondale, NY (Cheryl F. Korman and Merril Biscone of counsel), for respondents John A. Saugy and Suffolk Orthopaedic Associates, P.C.

          MARK C. DILLON, J.P., SHERI S. ROMAN, JEFFREY A. COHEN, ROBERT J. MILLER, JJ.

          DECISION & ORDER

         Appeal from an order of the Supreme Court, Suffolk County (Jeffrey Arlen Spinner, J.), dated August 19, 2014. The order, insofar as appealed from, granted the motion of the defendants John A. Saugy and Suffolk Orthopaedic Associates, P.C., for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against them and the separate motion of the defendants Albert Zilkha, Long Island Medical Imaging, P.C., and Long Island Magnetic Resonance Imaging, P.C., for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against the defendant Albert Zilkha and so much of the complaint as alleged that the defendants Long Island Medical Imaging, P.C., and Long Island Magnetic Resonance Imaging, P.C., were vicariously liable for the acts or omissions of the defendant Albert Zilkha.

         ORDERED that the order is affirmed insofar as appealed from, with one bill of costs payable to the respondents appearing separately and filing separate briefs.

         The plaintiff commenced this action to recover damages for medical malpractice and lack of informed consent against, among others, the defendants Albert Zilkha and Joel D. Reiter, who were radiologists employed by the defendants Long Island Medical Imaging, P.C. (hereinafter Long Island Medical), and Long Island Magnetic Resonance Imaging, P.C. (hereinafter Long Island MRI), and the defendant John A. Saugy, an orthopedic surgeon employed by the defendant Suffolk Orthopaedic Associates, P.C. (hereinafter together the Saugy defendants). The plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that Zilkha negligently failed "to timely identify a malignant process in the left lung of the plaintiff evidenced by [an MRI] performed on or about August 7, 2007, " and negligently failed "to note the presence of a mass in the left lung." Moreover, the plaintiff alleged that Saugy departed from accepted medical practice in, among other things, misinterpreting X rays of her shoulder, "failing to document any pathology in the lung, " "failing to diagnose lung cancer, " and "negligently diagnosing shoulder impingement syndrome" and "rotator cuff pain."

         In the order appealed from, the Supreme Court, inter alia, granted the Saugy defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against them. In addition, the court granted the separate motion of Zilkha, Long Island Medical, and Long Island MRI for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against Zilkha and so much of the complaint as alleged that Long Island Medical and Long Island MRI were vicariously liable for Zilkha's acts or omissions. We affirm the order insofar as appealed from.

         "Medical malpractice actions require proof that the defendant physician deviated or departed from the accepted community standards of practice, and that such deviation was a proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries" (Bongiovanni v Cavagnuolo, 138 A.D.3d 12, 16; see Trauring v Gendal, 121 A.D.3d 1097, 1097). "When moving for summary judgment, a defendant doctor has the burden of establishing the absence of any departure from good and accepted medical practice or that the plaintiff was not injured thereby'" (Trauring v Gendal, 121 A.D.3d at 1097, quoting Rebozo v Wilen, 41 A.D.3d 457, 458; see Meade v Yland, 140 A.D.3d 931, 932-933). " Once a defendant physician has made such a showing, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to demonstrate the existence of a triable issue of fact, ... but only as to the elements on which the defendant met the prima facie burden'" (Leigh v Kyle, 143 A.D.3d 779, 781, quoting Gillespie v New York Hosp. Queens, 96 A.D.3d 901, 902; see Stukas v Streiter, 83 A.D.3d 18, 24).

         " Although physicians owe a general duty of care to their patients, that duty may be limited to those medical functions undertaken by the physician and relied on by the patient'" (Meade v Yland, 140 A.D.3d at 933, quoting Chulla v DiStefano, 242 A.D.2d 657, 658; see Burns v Goyal, 145 A.D.3d 952, 954). "[T]he question of whether a physician owes a duty to the plaintiff is a question for the court, and is not an appropriate subject for expert opinion'" (Burns v Goyal, 145 A.D.3d at 954, quoting Burtman v Brown, 97 A.D.3d 156, 161).

         Here, the Saugy defendants submitted, inter alia, a detailed affirmation of an expert orthopedic surgeon, who opined that Saugy properly diagnosed the plaintiff with left rotator cuff disorder, and that the plaintiff's symptoms, a physical examination, and positive findings on X rays and an MRI of the left shoulder were consistent with Saugy's impression of shoulder impingement syndrome. In addition, the expert opined, among other things, that Saugy, as an orthopedist, appropriately obtained X rays of the plaintiff's left shoulder that "were optimized for the bone" and did not "show any evidence whatsoever of a lung tumor." Accordingly, the Saugy defendants made a prima facie showing that Saugy did not deviate from the accepted standard of care in the field of orthopedic surgery in his evaluation and treatment of the plaintiff's shoulder (see Leigh v Kyle, 143 A.D.3d at 782; Shields v Kleiner, 93 A.D.3d 710, 712). Moreover, the Saugy defendants established, prima facie, that Saugy's duty of care as an orthopedic surgeon did not extend to the alleged departures in failing to discover the plaintiff's lung cancer. Their submissions demonstrated, inter alia, that the plaintiff remained under the care of her primary care physician, who had referred the plaintiff to Saugy after diagnosing a rotator cuff tear, and that Saugy's role was limited to evaluating and treating her orthopedic issues (see Chin v Long Is. Coll. Hosp., 119 A.D.3d 833, 834; Zeldin v Michaelis, 105 A.D.3d 641, 641-642; Dombroski v Samaritan Hosp., 47 A.D.3d 80, 86; Yasin v Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hosp., 254 A.D.2d 281, 282).

         In opposition to the Saugy defendants' prima facie showing, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether Saugy deviated from the standard of care in the field of orthopedic surgery in his treatment of the plaintiff, or whether Saugy assumed a duty of care beyond the evaluation and treatment of the plaintiff's orthopedic issues. Contrary to the Saugy defendants' contention, the affirmation of the plaintiff's expert radiologist was not deficient by reason of the redaction of the expert's name, since the unredacted original was offered to the Supreme Court for in camera inspection, as is required (see Turi v Birk, 118 A.D.3d 979, 980; Cerny v Williams, 32 A.D.3d 881, 886). However, where, as here, " a physician opines outside his or her area of specialization, a foundation must be laid tending to support the reliability of the opinion rendered'" (Shashi v South Nassau Communities Hosp., 104 A.D.3d 838, 839, quoting Bey v Neuman, 100 A.D.3d 581, 582; see Bongiovanni v Cavagnuolo, 138 A.D.3d at 18; Bjorke v Rubenstein, 53 A.D.3d 519, 520). The plaintiff's expert, a board-certified radiologist, did not indicate any familiarity with the standards of orthopedic care. Moreover, the expert's opinion that Saugy assumed a duty to discover the plaintiff's lung cancer was a bare legal conclusion that is unsupported by the record and insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact (see Burns v Goyal, 145 A.D.3d at 954; Leigh v Kyle, 143 A.D.3d at 783; cf. Olgun v Cipolla, 82 A.D.3d 1186, 1187).

         Accordingly, the Supreme Court properly granted the Saugy defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against them.

         Contrary to the contention of Zilkha, Long Island Medical, and Long Island MRI (hereinafter collectively the Zilkha defendants), they failed to demonstrate that Zilkha, as a radiologist, did not owe a duty to the plaintiff to discover and note the mass allegedly visible on the MRI films interpreted by him (cf. Meade v Yland, 140 A.D.3d at 933; Covert v Walker,82 A.D.3d 825, 826; Dockery v Sprecher,68 A.D.3d 1043, 1045-1046). However, the Zilkha defendants' submissions, which included Zilkha's deposition testimony, established, prima facie, that Zilkha's interpretation of the MRI did not depart from the radiologic standard of care (see DeGiorgio v Racanelli,136 A.D.3d 734, 737; Garbowski v Hudson Val. Hosp. Ctr.,85 A.D.3d 724, 726). The submissions demonstrated, among other things, that the plaintiff's tumor ...


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