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Court Applies “Discovery Rule” in Medical Malpractice Case, Allowing Plaintiff’s Late Filing

Last month, an Illinois appellate court issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case, applying the “discovery rule” to potentially allow a plaintiff’s late-filed case to proceed to trial. Normally, all medical malpractice cases must be filed within the statute of limitations. However, when applied by a court, the discovery rule can act to toll a statute of limitations until the plaintiff discovers that there may be a viable medical malpractice case against the defendant. Thus, in the case of Moon v. Rhode, the court reversed a lower court’s decision that had held the discovery rule did not apply to the plaintiff’s case and remanded the case for further analysis from the lower court.

SurgeryThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s mother was treated by several doctors for rectal prolapse. Several days after she was treated by the doctors, she passed away, allegedly due to those doctors’ negligence. The plaintiff filed a timely medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctors.

During the course of the plaintiff’s investigation of the initial lawsuit, the plaintiff received an opinion from an expert that another doctor, the defendant in this case, was also partially responsible for failing to notice certain problems evident on an MRI his mother had several years back. The plaintiff then filed this medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant.

In response to the allegations, the defendant claimed that the lawsuit was filed past the statute of limitations and should be dismissed. The plaintiff claimed that he did not discover the potential malpractice until he was able to review the MRI, and the filing of the lawsuit was within the statute of limitations, assuming the time began upon his review of the MRI results.

The lower court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case, finding that the discovery rule did not apply to wrongful death cases brought under a medical malpractice theory. Upon review, the appellate court disagreed, explaining that the discovery rule does apply and that the case may have been timely filed. However, there was insufficient evidence in the record to allow the appellate court to determine when the statute of limitations actually began to run once the discovery rule was applied. Thus, the appellate court sent the case back down to the lower court so that the lower court could apply the discovery rule and determine at which date the statute of limitations began. Since the appellate court determined that the discovery rule applied, and the case was filed within two years of the plaintiff’s review of the MRI, it is likely that the plaintiff’s lawsuit will be permitted to proceed.

Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of negligent medical care, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. It is important to keep in mind that medical malpractice cases must be filed in a timely manner, or the plaintiff risks early dismissal. The skilled attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Cohn & Smith have decades of experience representing clients in medical malpractice cases and understand how to navigate this difficult area of the law. With their assistance, you can rest assured your case is in good hands. Call 954-431-8100 to set up a free consultation today.

Related Blog Posts:

Product Liability Appeal Dismissed, Based on Plaintiff’s Failure to Show Alternative Design, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, September 19, 2016.

Respondeat Superior: Holding an Employer Responsible for a Negligent Employee’s Actions, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, October 12, 2016.

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