In this medical malpractice action, the Appellate Division has affirmed Supreme Court's denial of defendant Stark's motion for summary judgment and has granted leave to appeal to this court on the certified question: "Was the order of Supreme Court, as affirmed by this Court, properly made?" For the reasons that follow, we reverse the order of the Appellate Division, grant defendant Stark's motion for summary judgment, and answer the certified question in the negative.
Plaintiff Maria Alvarez was admitted to Prospect Hospital twice in 1978 and twice in 1979, each time complaining of abdominal pain. Dr. Stark, as the chief of radiology at the hospital, interpreted several radiological studies performed on plaintiff during these visits. As relevant here, during plaintiff's second visit to the hospital in 1978, Dr. Stark interpreted a barium enema X ray as revealing "cecal neoplasm" of the
This action was thereafter commenced against the hospital and nine physicians, including Dr. Stark. Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges, in general and unparticularized terms, that the medical care and treatment rendered by each defendant "was so negligent, reckless and careless as to constitute the * * * care and treatment as negligence, carelessness, recklessness, misfeasance, malfeasance and malpractice". In her bill of particulars, plaintiff alleged that she was unable to state with exactitude which specific negligent acts were performed by each particular defendant but claimed that "defendants violated every known medical standard in existence at the time of plaintiff's care and treatment" and in over three pages of boilerplate allegations described acts and omissions constituting medical malpractice. Plaintiff relied almost entirely upon Dr. Stark's reports indicating the presence of a cecal neoplasm in order to establish her claim of malpractice for "failing to discover and/or treat the nature and cause of lesions and/or irregularities noted in barium enemas", "failing to explain, attempt to explain, or perform tests, procedures, examinations, and/or surgery which would have explained the inconsistency between the normal colonoscopic examination of plaintiff and the lesions and/or irregularities noted upon the barium enema(s) performed" and "failing to determine the origin, nature and/or cause of a lesion which was found in a barium enema".
Following completion of his examination before trial, Dr. Stark moved for summary judgment, including in his motion papers an affirmation of his attorney, to which were attached the relevant hospital records and portions of his deposition testimony. The attorney's affirmation pointed out that plaintiff had adopted Dr. Stark's interpretations of the barium enema X rays as the basis for her claim against the other defendants that there was a failure to diagnose the cecal neoplasm at an early stage of her treatment. Counsel argued that because
In an attorney's affidavit submitted in opposition to the motion, plaintiff contended that there were issues of fact as to whether Dr. Stark, after having interpreted the radiological studies ordered by the treating physicians, should have discussed such results with the treating physicians and should have monitored the plaintiff's condition to insure that the treating physicians dealt properly with the plaintiff's condition. judgment, finding that questions of fact had been raised concerning the duty, if any, of the defendant with respect to the plaintiff's treatment. A divided Appellate Division affirmed (115 A.D.2d 444). We now reverse.
As we have stated frequently, the proponent of a summary judgment motion must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of any material issues of fact (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 N.Y.2d 851, 853; Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 N.Y.2d 557, 562; Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 N.Y.2d 395, 404). Failure to make such prima facie showing requires a denial of the motion, regardless of the sufficiency of the opposing papers (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, supra, at p 853). Once this showing has been made, however, the burden shifts to the party opposing the motion for summary judgment to produce evidentiary proof in admissible form sufficient to establish the existence of material issues of fact which require a trial of the action (Zuckerman v City of New York, supra, at p 562). In a medical malpractice action, a plaintiff, in opposition to a defendant physician's summary judgment motion, must submit evidentiary facts or materials to rebut the prima facie showing by the defendant physician that he was not negligent in treating plaintiff so as to demonstrate the existence of a triable issue of fact (Fileccia v Massapequa Gen. Hosp., 63 N.Y.2d 639, affg 99 A.D.2d 796;
On this record, defendant's submissions in support of his motion for summary judgment satisfy the prima facie showing required to warrant judgment as a matter of law if not rebutted by the plaintiff. A fair reading of the attorney's affirmation, the hospital records and the defendant's deposition testimony compel the conclusion that no material triable issues of fact exist as to the claims of malpractice asserted against the defendant in the amended complaint as amplified by the bill of particulars. The fact that defendant's supporting proof was placed before the court by way of an attorney's affirmation annexing deposition testimony and other proof, rather than affidavits of fact on personal knowledge, is not fatal to the motion (Olan v Farrell Lines, 64 N.Y.2d 1092, 1093). Dr. Stark's deposition testimony is supported by the hospital records and rebuts with factual proof plaintiff's claim of malpractice and thus is sufficient proof that he properly and timely diagnosed the plaintiff's condition and did not depart from the accepted standard of care in the medical community (Witt v Agin, 67 N.Y.2d 919, affg 112 A.D.2d 64; Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 N.Y.2d 851, supra; Fileccia v Massapequa Gen. Hosp., 63 N.Y.2d 639, affg 99 A.D.2d 796, supra; Neuman v Greenstein, 99 A.D.2d 1018, supra).
Winegrad (64 N.Y.2d 851, supra) is not to the contrary. There, the plaintiff alleged, among other things, that the defendant doctors had misrepresented that the surgery was completed when in fact they had failed to complete the surgery and alleged further that they were not qualified to treat plaintiff. All that was tendered by the doctors in support of their summary judgment motion was an affidavit by each which did no more than simply state, in conclusory fashion, that they had acted in conformity with the appropriate standard of care. On the record in that case, we held that the "bare conclusory assertions echoed by all three defendants that they did not deviate from good and accepted medical
This case is substantially similar to Fileccia v Massapequa Gen. Hosp. (63 N.Y.2d 639, affg 99 A.D.2d 796, supra), where we affirmed an Appellate Division order granting summary judgment to a defendant radiologist in a medical malpractice action. The plaintiff there was a patient in the emergency room of the hospital and was X-rayed at the attending physician's request because of possible fractures of the cheekbone. The physician interpreted the X rays as not indicating any fractures and plaintiff was discharged. Two days later, defendant, a Board certified radiologist and head of the hospital's pathology department, reviewed the X rays and concurred in the interpretation that no fractures were revealed. Subsequently, plaintiff was diagnosed at another hospital as having sustained fractures of certain facial bones and was hospitalized. Plaintiff commenced a medical malpractice action claiming the defendant radiologist negligently interpreted the X rays. Defendant moved for summary judgment, submitting a personal affidavit, an affirmation of his attorney and his deposition testimony, arguing that he did not perform the X-ray examination, did not treat or examine the plaintiff and that the X rays he had interpreted did not reveal any fractures. In response to defendant's motion, plaintiff submitted an attorney's affirmation to which was annexed copies of the medical records and X-ray reports revealing the alleged fractures. In reversing Special Term and granting summary judgment, the Appellate Division noted that the radiologist had never performed a physical examination of the plaintiff and his only contact with the plaintiff was to read X rays taken of plaintiff by others. Under these circumstances, the court ruled that defendant had established his right to judgment as a matter of law and that plaintiff's submissions were devoid of any medical evidence tending to establish that defendant had negligently read or interpreted the X rays and therefore were not sufficient to defeat the motion for summary judgment (see also, Witt v Agin, 67 N.Y.2d 919, affg 112 A.D.2d 64, supra).
Here, too, defendant's submissions are sufficient to establish his entitlement to judgment as a matter of law and the burden thus shifted to plaintiff to produce evidentiary proof in
Accordingly, the order of the Appellate Division should be reversed, Dr. Stark's motion for summary judgment granted and the certified question answered in the negative.
Order reversed, with costs, defendant Stark's motion for summary judgment granted, and question certified answered in the negative.