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Judge Rules For Plaintiff In Malpractice Lawsuit

Updated August 6, 2021.

A state Supreme Court justice has granted a summary judgment to the plaintiff in a malpractice lawsuit filed by the estate of a man who died at a Rochester-area hospital.

The estate of Liston Cyrus sued Rochester Regional Health, which operates Unity Hospital at Park Ridge. Cyrus, who was 56 when he died, was president of the Albany chapter of the NAACP.

Cyrus was visiting Rochester on June 1, 2019, when he went to Unity at 12:30 p.m. complaining of back pain radiating from his abdomen. Cyrus died at the hospital the next day.

An autopsy determined the cause of death was aortic dissection, when the layers of the aorta separate, or are torn, which allows blood to flow between the layers, causing them to separate. When the wall separates, blood cannot flow freely and the aortic wall bursts.

The lawsuit claims the hospital was negligent in failing to diagnose and treat Cyrus.

The Cyrus estate filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability, claiming that the hospital determined that Cyrus’s symptoms were consistent with aortic dissection, but failed to officially diagnose him or provide the appropriate treatment before he died.

The defense claims Cyrus complained of back pain as a result of bending over to pick up something in his car but did not report shortness of breath or chest pain. The defense claimed that lab tests were consistent with pancreatitis.

The defense submitted an affirmation from a doctor who reviewed the medical records in the case and deposition testimony and formed the opinion that the hospital’s care and treatment of Cyrus “did not violate acceptable standards of medical care, ” according to the decision released July 28 by state Supreme Court Justice Anne Marie Taddeo.

The Cyrus estate’s attorney, Peter T. Rodgers, managing partner at Lacy Katzen LLP, argued that the doctor’s opinion should be disregarded because he was not a qualified expert.

Although the doctor was experienced in emergency medicine, he did not describe any knowledge, skill training, experience or education in the diagnosis, management and treatment of aortic dissection.

Taddeo agreed that the doctor “did not establish his competency to render an expert opinion on issues that pertain to this case.”

She also wrote in the decision that the doctor did not address the bulk of the opinions from the plaintiff’s expert witness.

“Defendants have failed to overcome their burden necessary to defeat plaintiff’s motion,” Taddeo wrote.

Granting a motion for summary judgment in a malpractice case “is almost unheard of,” Rodgers said.

He added: “It’s pretty rare that in a malpractice case, the expert does not identify his competency to testify … I’ve been practicing law for 45 years and I’ve never seen it.”

Next, the case will go to a jury trial to determine the damages. But the defense has filed a notice of appeal for Taddeo’s decision with the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Fourth Department.

Unity’s attorney, Jennifer M. Schwartzott, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If you have any questions, please contact Peter Rodgers.

By Bennet Loudon – Daily Record Staff

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