New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JACKSON v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-039-041, Claim No. 103848, Motion No. M-73197


Synopsis


Defendant’s motion for leave to amend its answer to include affirmative defense of collateral estoppel granted. Defendants did not offer any opposition to this aspect of claimant’s motion, there is no proof before the Court that claimants will prejudiced by the proposed amendment and the Court cannot say that the defense of collateral estoppel is plainly lacking in merit. Additionally, defendant’s motion for an order dismissing the claim is granted to the extent that claimants are precluded from litigating the issue of whether any of the acts or omissions of the seven physicians named as defendants in the prior Supreme Court action were the proximate cause of decedent’s death. Supreme Court clearly and unequivocally held that, as a matter of law, there was nothing any of the named physicians did or did not do that was the proximate cause of decedent’s death or other injuries as alleged in the bill of particulars.

Case Information

UID:
2007-039-041
Claimant(s):
Shirley Jackson, as Administratrix of the Estate of Carl Jackson, deceased; and Shirley Jackson, individually
Claimant short name:
JACKSON
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
103848
Motion number(s):
M-73197
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
James H. Ferreira
Claimant’s attorney:
Harriet A. Gilliam, Esq.
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: Daniel ChuAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
September 5, 2007
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

In February 1999, Carl Jackson (hereinafter decedent) died while a patient at Stony Brook University Hospital from complications following a kidney transplant. In February 2001, claimant Shirley Jackson, as Administratrix of the Estate of Carl Jackson and in her individual capacity, filed a claim for medical malpractice against the State of New York, as well as a Supreme Court action for medical malpractice against seven physicians. The named physicians included four hospital residents and clinical fellows - Hsia, Ye, Doctor and Ostrovsky - and three attending physicians - Waltzer, Frischer and Kaufman. Issue was joined in both actions, and during March 2007, the Supreme Court (Doyle, J.) issued a decision granting summary judgment and dismissing the action.

Upon the Court’s (Doyle, J.) consideration of, among other things, the pleadings, the bill of particulars, copies of the transcripts from defendants’ examinations before trial, and defendants’ expert affirmations, it determined that defendants established, prima facie, their entitlement to judgment as a matter of law that “[t]here was nothing [they] did or did not do that was a proximate cause of [decedent’s] death or other injuries [as] alleged by . . . plaintiff in the bill of particulars.” Upon consideration of plaintiff’s proof in opposition, the Court (Doyle, J.) concluded, in relevant part, that
“[P]laintiff’s counsel affirms that there is no opposition to the motion by defendant Ye. Accordingly, summary judgment is awarded to defendant Ye.


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[S]ince the evidence demonstrates that the hospital residents and clinical fellows had no contact with the patient except while they were under, and thus bound by, the direct supervision of their attending physicians, no rational trier of fact could find that the hospital residents’ and fellows’ acts or failures to act were a proximate cause of the patient’s injuries and therefore, summary judgment is awarded to defendants Hsai, Doctor and Ostrovsky.


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Although conflicting opinions may raise a question of fact, neither the affidavit of plaintiff’s expert nor any other evidence in the record before this court supplies the requisite nexus between the malpractice allegedly committed by defendants Waltzer, Frischer or Kaufman and the demise of the patient . . . and, accordingly, summary judgment is granted.

Defendant now moves the Court for an order pursuant to CPLR § 3025 granting leave to amend its answer to include an affirmative defense of collateral estoppel and, upon granting leave, precluding claimants from relitigating issues that were decided upon summary judgment in the Supreme Court action. Defendant further moves the Court pursuant to CPLR §§ 3211 (a) (5) and 3212 for an order dismissing the claim with prejudice on the ground that claimants are precluded from relitigating any material issue that might support a finding of liability against the State. Claimants oppose the motion.

The Court concludes in the first instance that defendant shall be permitted to amend its answer to assert collateral estoppel. It is well settled that “ ‘[p]rovided that there is no prejudice to the nonmoving party and the amendment is not plainly lacking in merit, leave to amend pleadings under CPLR 3025 (b) should be freely granted’ ” (United States Fid. & Guar. Co. v Delmar Dev. Partners, LLC, 22 AD3d 1017, 1019 [2005], quoting Smith v Haggerty, 16 AD3d 967, 967-968 [2005]; see also In re Rouson, 32 AD3d 956, 958 [2006]). Supreme Court did not issue its decision until March 2007 and claimants do not oppose defendant’s request to amend its answer. Additionally, there is no proof before the Court that claimants will be prejudiced by the proposed amendment and, as discussed below, the Court cannot say that the defense of collateral estoppel is plainly lacking in merit.

The Court further concludes that defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim shall be granted to the extent that claimants are precluded from litigating the issue of whether any of the acts or omissions of the seven physicians named as defendants in the prior Supreme Court action were the proximate cause of decedent’s death. However, the claim survives defendant’s motion to dismiss to the extent that claimants seek relief related to the acts or omissions by any other “agents, servants and/or employees” of Stony Brook Hospital alleged by claimants in their bill of particulars to be the proximate cause of decedent’s death.

“The equitable doctrine of collateral estoppel ‘precludes a party from relitigating in a subsequent action or proceeding an issue clearly raised in a prior action or proceeding and decided against that party or those in privity’ ” (Church v New York State Thruway Auth., 16 AD3d 808, 809 [2005], quoting Ryan v New York Tel. Co., 62 NY2d 494, 500 [1984]). “[P]reclusive effect is limited to only those ‘issues that were actually litigated, squarely addressed and specifically decided’ ” (id. at 810, quoting Ross v Medical Liab. Mut. Ins. Co., 75 NY2d 825, 826 [1990]). Moreover, “a determination will generally not be given preclusive effect unless the resolution of the issue was ‘essential’ to the decision rendered in the first action or proceeding” (id.).

“The party seeking application of collateral estoppel bears the burden of showing that the decisive, identical issue was ‘necessarily decided’ in the prior action, while the party opposing the application of the doctrine must demonstrate the absence of a full and fair opportunity to contest the prior determination” (id. at 809-810, quoting Buechel v Bain, 97 NY2d 295, 304 [2001], cert denied 535 US 1096 [2002]). “The question of whether a litigant had a full and fair opportunity to contest the prior determination on those issues requires a case-by-case analysis of the realities of the prior litigation, ‘including the context and other circumstances which . . . may have had the practical effect of discouraging or deterring a party from fully litigating the determination’ ” (id. at 810, quoting Ryan v New York Tel. Co., supra at 501).

Here, the Supreme Court “ ‘clearly and unequivocally’ ” held that, as a matter of law, there was nothing any of the named physicians did or did not do that was the proximate cause of decedent’s death or other injuries as alleged in the bill of particulars (Mulverhill v State of New York, 257 AD2d 735, 738 [1999], quoting Mulverhill v State of New York, 1994 WL 263594 [US Dist Ct, ND NY, May 19, 1994, Munson, J.]). Certainly, resolution of whether any triable issues of fact existed regarding the proximate cause of decedent’s death, vis-a-vis the alleged acts or omissions of the named physicians, was an issue that was essential to the Supreme Court’s decision to award summary judgment. Nor do claimants contend that they were not given a sufficient opportunity to contest the Court’s (Doyle, J.) determination and, in fact, a review of the record reveals that plaintiffs were given a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue.

Moreover, the Supreme Court’s determination was necessarily confined to the alleged acts or omissions by the seven named physicians. Thus, the alleged acts or omissions of anyone other than the physicians named therein have not been fully litigated. In this regard, the Court has considered defendant’s argument that plaintiffs had the opportunity within the context of the Supreme Court action to request discovery related to any alleged acts or omissions by individuals other than the named physicians, but did not do so, and finds that the argument is unpersuasive. The fact remains that defendant is unable to meet its burden of showing that the Supreme Court rendered a decision with respect to the alleged acts or omissions of anyone other than the seven named physicians because the Court (Doyle, J.) did not do so. Thus, the doctrine of collateral estoppel does not preclude claimants from litigating issues before this Court with respect thereto.

Accordingly, it is hereby

ORDERED that M-73197 is granted in part to the extent that defendant shall be permitted to amend its answer to include the affirmative defense of collateral estoppel; and it is further

ORDERED that defendant shall file and serve its amended answer within twenty days from the filing date of this Decision and Order; and it is further

ORDERED that M-73197 is granted to the extent that claimants are precluded from litigating whether any of the alleged acts or omissions by defendants in the Supreme Court action (Index No. 01-3211, March 5, 2007, Doyle, J.) were the proximate cause of decedent’s death, and denied in all other respects.

September 5, 2007
Albany, New York

HON. JAMES H. FERREIRA
Judge of the Court of Claims


Papers Considered
:
  1. Notice of Motion dated April 10, 2007;
  1. Affirmation in Support of Motion by Daniel Chu, AAG, affirmed on April 10, 2007 with exhibits;
  1. Affirmation in Opposition by Harriet A. Gilliam, Esq., affirmed on May 23, 2007 with exhibits; and
  2. Reply Affirmation of Daniel Chu, AAG, affirmed on June 14, 2007 with exhibits.