The statute of limitations for New York medical malpractice lawsuits is currently 30 months. Generally, the time period for filing claims starts to run when the medical error occurred, although this might change if the Governor signs Lavern’s Law. Regardless, New York law recognizes an exception to the general rule. The continuous treatment doctrine extends, or tolls, the statute of limitations when a physician’s treatment has continued uninterrupted and is associated with the patient’s initial illness or condition.
A New York appeals court ruled on this issue in Lewis v. Rutkovsky. The plaintiff brought a lawsuit against her primary care physician, alleging that he failed to detect, diagnose, and treat her meningioma. As a result of the alleged malpractice, the plaintiff underwent brain surgery that left her legally blind. The plaintiff first went to see the doctor in 1999 because she was experiencing migraines and blurred vision but did not file a lawsuit until 2010. She argued that this was still proper because her doctor ignored her complaints about her symptoms during the eight-year period of continuous treatment.
The court relied on earlier precedent to guide their decision. In Wilson v. Southampton Urgent Medical Care, P.C., the plaintiff received treatment on 11 separate occasions during a three-year period. The plaintiff’s symptoms included headaches, and she was eventually diagnosed with lung cancer. Deposition testimony revealed that a brain tumor from metastasized lung cancer would cause headaches. The court allowed the claim to proceed because there was an issue of fact as to whether the plaintiff’s continuous treatment for headaches was traceable to the lung cancer.