LaPIETRA v. CLINICAL INTERVENTIONAL CARDIOLOGY ASSOCIATES

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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, New York.

Rose Marie LaPIETRA and Luigi LaPietra, Plaintiffs-Respondents, v. CLINICAL & INTERVENTIONAL CARDIOLOGY ASSOCIATES and Theckedath Mathew, Defendants-Appellants.

Decided: April 30, 2004

PRESENT:  PIGOTT, JR., P.J., GREEN, WISNER, HURLBUTT, AND GORSKI, JJ. Hirsch & Tubiolo, P.C., Rochester (Christopher S. Noone of Counsel), for Defendants-Appellants. Charles T. Noce, Rochester (Kathleen P. Reardon of Counsel), for Plaintiffs-Respondents.

In this medical malpractice action, plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment on liability was predicated upon the theory, advanced in the affidavit of plaintiffs' expert physician, that defendants' physician employee negligently left a # 5 French catheter sheath beneath the skin of Rose Marie LaPietra (plaintiff) following a heart catheterization, coronary angiography, and ventriculography procedure.   In opposition, defendants submitted evidence that the foreign object admittedly left in plaintiff was not a catheter sheath, but rather was a small piece of tubing used to encase a vasoseal device that was inserted into her femoral artery following completion of the procedure.   Based on two letters of defendant Theckedath Mathew “acknowledging that a piece of sheathing or vasoseal device was left in plaintiff[,] causing an infection,” Supreme Court granted plaintiffs' motion.   In the alternative, the court concluded that plaintiffs were entitled to partial summary judgment on liability under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

 We reverse.   Defendants' evidence that the foreign object left in plaintiff was a piece of vasoseal tubing and not the # 5 French catheter sheath undermines the factual underpinning for the opinion of plaintiffs' expert concerning the alleged malpractice of defendants' physician employee, and thus raises a triable issue of fact.   Accordingly, partial summary judgment on liability could not properly be granted based on the opinion of plaintiffs' expert (see Cappolla v. City of New York, 302 A.D.2d 547, 549, 755 N.Y.S.2d 100, lv. denied 100 N.Y.2d 511, 766 N.Y.S.2d 165, 798 N.E.2d 349;  see generally Winegrad v. New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 N.Y.2d 851, 853, 487 N.Y.S.2d 316, 476 N.E.2d 642).

 As an alternative ground for its holding, the court sua sponte invoked the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur and concluded that plaintiffs were also entitled to partial summary judgment on liability pursuant to that doctrine.   Even assuming, arguendo, that the court properly acted sua sponte in invoking the res ipsa doctrine, we conclude that it nevertheless erred in granting the motion.   Res ipsa loquitur is applicable where, as here, a foreign body is unintentionally left in a patient following an operative procedure (see Kambat v. St. Francis Hosp., 89 N.Y.2d 489, 655 N.Y.S.2d 844, 678 N.E.2d 456).   Thus, evidence that a foreign body, whether a catheter sheath or a piece of vasoseal tubing, was left in plaintiff's body is sufficient to establish malpractice liability as a matter of law if “ ‘the inference of negligence arising therefrom is inescapable and unrebutted’ ” (Thomas v. New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 283 A.D.2d 316, 317, 725 N.Y.S.2d 35, quoting Salter v. Deaconess Family Medicine Ctr. [appeal No. 2], 267 A.D.2d 976, 977, 701 N.Y.S.2d 586).   Here, however, defendants submitted evidence rebutting the inference of negligence, thus raising a triable issue of fact whether the physician who performed the procedure deviated from accepted standards of medical care (see Cianfrocco v. St. Luke's Mem. Hosp. Ctr., 265 A.D.2d 849, 850, 695 N.Y.S.2d 789;  Gravitt v. Newman, 114 A.D.2d 1000, 1000-1001, 495 N.Y.S.2d 439).   Both the operating physician and defendants' expert physician averred that, given the small size and physical characteristics of the piece of angioseal tubing, the failure to detect its presence in plaintiff's body following the procedure was not a departure from accepted standards of medical care.   We therefore reverse the order insofar as appealed from and deny the motion for partial summary judgment on liability.

It is hereby ORDERED that the order insofar as appealed from be and the same hereby is unanimously reversed on the law without costs and the motion is denied.

MEMORANDUM: