The end of this week marks the deadline for the New York State legislature to pass the so-called “Lavern’s Law.” The bill would redesign the current statute of limitations in place for New York medical malpractice lawsuits. Under New York’s current CPLR section 214-a, from the date of the act or omission giving rise to medical malpractice, a plaintiff has two years, six months within which to file suit. When there is a continuous course of treatment for the illness or condition that gives rise to the alleged malpractice, the statute begins to run as of the date of the last treatment.
The proposed bill is named for Lavern Wilkinson, who died earlier this year from lung cancer. In 2010, doctors either misdiagnosed, or failed to inform Ms. Wilkinson, that she had lung cancer. Subsequently the cancer went untreated, and Ms. Wilkinson died of her condition.
Statutes of limitations are in many ways critical to the accuracy and the efficiency of the judicial process. A time limit on filing suit helps to preserve evidence that may be lost over time; is an effective measure of the accuracy of a witness’s memories and recollections of events; and enabling a speedier resolution to legal suits. The current medical malpractice statute of limitations in New York is unfair in many instances, however. In many states, the statute of limitations begins to run when the alleged medical malpractice is discovered. For example in New York, if a diagnosis is missed but not discovered until years later, the statute has probably run out for the affected patient. It is situations such as this that the lawmakers backing this bill are attempting to rectify. The results should be known soon.
For more on Lavern Wilkinson’s story, read the New York Daily News article here.