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For Purposes of the Florida Statute of Limitations, Knowledge of Possible Medical Malpractice Was Not Imputed to Emergency Temporary Guardian – Barrier v. JFK Medical Center Limited Partnership

clock3One of the most important considerations in any lawsuit is the statute of limitations, the period that the law allows for filing suit. Failure to file suit within the time afforded by the limitations period usually means that there can be no recovery, regardless of the merits of the action.

That said, there are a few, limited exceptions to the general requirements of the statute of limitations. While it is always best to err on the side of caution and file sooner rather than later, the exceptions can come in very handy in some cases.

The Facts of the Case

In the case of Barrier v. JFK Medical Center Limited Partnership, the plaintiff was the mother and guardian of an incapacitated young man who had allegedly attempted suicide in February 2010. She served notices of intent to initiate medical malpractice litigation on the defendant medical providers in July 2012, after having received the 90-day extension of the statute of limitations under Flo. Stat. § 766.104(2). The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the grounds that the plaintiff’s suit was barred by the Florida medical malpractice statute of limitations found at Flo. Stat. § 95.11(4)(b), which states that an action for medical malpractice shall be commenced within two years from either the incident giving rise to the action or two years from the time that the alleged medical negligence should have been discovered in the exercise of due diligence.

The Decision on Appeal

The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s order dismissing her suit as untimely. Upon consideration, the court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. According to the appellate court, the main issue was whether the plaintiff’s appointment as her son’s emergency temporary guardian created a legal duty towards the son such that any knowledge of malpractice that the plaintiff may have acquired could be imputed to the son, thus triggering the commencement of the statute of limitations. The court answered the question in the negative, holding that the plaintiff’s knowledge – if she, in fact, had any knowledge – of possible medical negligence could not be imputed to her son and ward for purposes of the running of the statute of limitations.

Since the plaintiff’s son was not declared incapacitated, and the plaintiff was not appointed his plenary guardian, until May 2010, the plaintiff’s action for malpractice was filed within the statute of limitations.

To Speak to a Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been hurt by the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider, you should speak to an attorney with experience in the complex field of medical malpractice as soon as possible. To schedule a free initial consultation with a member of the Cohn & Smith legal team, call us today at 954-431-8100. We accept most cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning no legal fees are required until a settlement or judgment is obtained in your favor.

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