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New York Court Discusses the Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Cases

New York law provides people harmed by the incompetence of doctors the right to seek compensation via medical malpractice claims. The right is not infinite, though, as such claims must be pursued within the statute of limitations. Certain scenarios warrant tolling of the statute of limitations, however, as discussed in a recent New York opinion. If you suffered harm due to an improperly performed procedure, it is wise to meet with a Rochester medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

The Plaintiff’s Harm and Subsequent Claims

It is reported that the plaintiff presented to the defendant’s hospital for a hernia repair surgery. Following the procedure, she suffered an anoxic brain injury while in the post-anesthesia care unit. She was found unresponsive and pulseless and was revived by the defendant’s employees. She remained comatose for weeks, responding involuntarily to physical stimuli but not vocal cues.

Allegedly, the plaintiff’s brain injury left her cortically blind and wheelchair-bound. She subsequently filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, alleging the defendant’s employee’s inadequate medication and monitoring delayed recognition of her deteriorating condition caused her cardiac arrest and subsequent injuries. Her husband filed a derivate claim as well. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint, arguing her claims were time-barred.

Tolling the Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Cases

The defendants argued that the plaintiff’s claim was time-barred as it was filed over two and a half years after the alleged malpractice. The plaintiff countered that due to her post-surgical condition, under CPLR § 208(a), the statute of limitations should be tolled due to insanity, making her complaint timely.

The court ultimately agreed with the plaintiff. In doing so, it explained that CPLR § 214 sets a two-and-a-half-year limit for medical malpractice suits, with the cause of action arising from the act, omission, or last treatment. A defendant under CPLR § 3211(a)(5) must show that the statute of limitations expired; if they do, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to prove an exception.

CPLR § 208(a) tolls the period for disabilities like insanity. The term “insanity” lacks a clear definition; the courts generally interpret it narrowly, applying it to those unable to protect rights due to their inability to function. Evidence of a psychiatric condition alone isn’t sufficient to toll the statute of limitations; instead, the plaintiff must demonstrate that their condition was sufficiently severe to render them unable to manage their own affairs.

The court noted that severe brain trauma generally entitles tolling for insanity. As the plaintiff was indisputably incapacitated by her brain injury and unable to take the action needed to protect her interests, the court found that CPLR § 208(a) tolled the statute of limitations as to her claims. The court ruled, however, that her husband’s derivative claims were time-barred.

Confer with a Skilled Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

It is critical that people harmed due to negligently performed procedures pursue any claims as promptly as possible to avoid waiving the right to recover damages. If you were hurt by an improperly performed surgery, you may have grounds for pursuing a surgical malpractice claim, and it is smart to confer with an attorney. The skilled Rochester medical malpractice lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can inform you of your options and aid you in seeking the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case.  You can contact us by calling 585-653-7343 or using our online form to set up a conference.

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