Articles Posted in Cancer Misdiagnosis

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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.

Migraine

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.

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Emergency Room

A statute of limitations is a law that limits the time period within which you may sue a person or company. The New York medical malpractice statute imposes a 30-month time limit from the date of the malpractice or from the end of continuous treatment. However, the New York legislature recently passed Lavern’s Law to, among other things, give people who receive a cancer misdiagnosis a more reasonable time period to assert a malpractice claim.

The New York legislature first considered revising the medical malpractice statute after the death of a New York woman, whose cancer was misdiagnosed on two separate occasions. The woman visited Kings County Hospital with chest pain and received an X-ray. She was sent home after a first-year resident told her it looked fine. Later, she began having difficulty breathing. Again, this was misdiagnosed with asthma symptoms. Finally, two years after the initial visit, doctors reexamined her old X-ray and noticed a small mass. By this time, the mass had developed into lung cancer and spread throughout her body. She died approximately a year later.

The woman’s lawsuit for medical malpractice was unsuccessful because the statute of limitations had expired by the time she filed suit. New York is currently one of only six states that starts the statute of limitations when the medical mistake is made, not the moment the mistake is discovered. Lavern’s Law would change this feature of the current law so that the timing for cancer misdiagnoses would begin at the moment of discovery.

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