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A lawsuit filed by the widow and the estate of the boxer Beethavean Scottland, who died following a bout on the U.S.S. Intrepid in 2001, has been dismissed. Denise Scottland alleged that two ringside physicians failed their common-law duty to exercise reasonable care by stopping the fatal fight. In the 10th round, George Khalid Jones knocked Mr. Scottland into a coma from which he never recovered. Supreme Court Justice Sherry Klein Heitler ruled however that the case sounded in medical malpractice not negligence and that under malpractice’s shorter statute of limitations the claims had expired. “The court finds … the physician defendants were retained as ringside physicians in their capacity as physicians, and they were charged with the duty to exercise reasonable medical care to provide an ongoing medical diagnosis of the boxing participants’ physical condition throughout the match,” she wrote in Scottland v. Duva Boxing, 109169/04. “This holding is consistent with the boxer’s reasonable expectation that a ringside physician will call the match if necessary to protect his or her well-being, as well as attend to any injuries the boxer sustains during the match.” A separate action against New York state and the New York State Athletic Commission is ongoing in the Court of Claims, according to an attorney for the plaintiffs. The June 26, 2001, televised fight between Mr. Scottland and Mr. Jones was the first professional boxing bout to be held on the deck of the Intrepid. Mr. Scottland was a last-minute replacement for David Telesco, who withdrew after breaking his nose. After getting knocked out in the final scheduled round, Mr. Scottland remained comatose for six days before dying from his injuries. He was survived by his wife and three children. His wife initiated the present action on June 21, 2004, a week short of the third anniversary of the bout. The timing of the filing became crucial, as it fell within the three-year statute of limitation for personal injury claims, but outside the two-and-a-half-year statute for medical-malpractice claims. However, Heitler ruled that the case sounded in medical malpractice rather than negligence and granted the physicians’ motions to dismiss. “In sum, the court’s review of the applicable regulations leads it to conclude that the Legislature’s primary purpose in requiring the presence of ringside physicians, in addition to the referee and other personnel, is to ensure the safety of the match participants,” she held. “In this regard, this case falls outside the rubric of those cited by plaintiff for the proposition that no physician-patient relationship existed between Scottland and defendants.” Heitler concluded, “In essence, then, plaintiff’s claims against [the defendants] sound in medical malpractice and have expired under the applicable Statute of Limitations.” Ms. Scottland’s attorney, Kim E. Mazzatto of Weitz, Kleinick & Weitz, an affiliate of The Cochran Firm, said her client initiated the only viable action. “We still do not agree with Judge Heitler that the case is a medical malpractice case,” Mazzatto said. “We relied on appellate division cases, which reaffirmed the principles that a claim for medical malpractice must be founded on the existence of a physician-patient relationship. Here, there was no [such] relationship.” Mazzatto added that her client is considering an appeal. John P. McNaboe of Heidell, Pittoni, Murphy & Bach represented defendant Gerard Varlotta. Patrick G. Reidy of Costello, Shea & Gaffney represented defendant Rufus Sadler. Both attorneys declined to comment.

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