Court Applies “Discovery Rule” to Allow Plaintiff’s Wrongful Death Claim to Proceed

The Supreme Court of the State of Illinois recently released a decision reversing two lower court rulings and ultimately preserving a wrongful death plaintiff’s right to recover damages from a defendant against whom he did not file a claim until the state’s statute of limitations had appeared to expire. The court found that the “discovery rule” applies to wrongful death by medical malpractice claims in that state, and the plaintiff’s right to hold medical providers accountable for their negligence would be unfairly taken away if the claim were not permitted to proceed. Since the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim has been reversed, his claim for compensation will proceed toward a settlement or trial.

SurgeonsThe Plaintiff’s Mother Dies While Under the Care of the Defendants

The plaintiff in the case of Moon v. Rhode is the son of a woman who died on May 29, 2009 after she was hospitalized to treat a gastrointestinal issue. After her death, the plaintiff had an investigation performed and was notified by medical experts that two of the attending physicians were likely negligent in failing to diagnose or treat respiratory problems that arose after she was admitted to the hospital, which ultimately led to her death.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against the physicians, seeking damages for his mother’s death. During the course of the lawsuit, the plaintiff requested that a different expert review his mother’s diagnostic imagery reports, and he was notified on March 4, 2013 (after the statute of limitations appeared to expire) that the likely cause of his mother’s death was a previously undiagnosed condition that should have been noticed by her radiologist, who was not a party to the ongoing lawsuit.

The Plaintiff Files Suit Based on the New Information, But the Claim Is Rejected on Timeliness Grounds

After receiving the new information about his mother’s death, the plaintiff filed another wrongful death lawsuit against the radiologist whose alleged negligence was a significant factor in his mother’s death. The defendant, noting the state’s statute of limitations for wrongful death claims, demanded that the claim be dismissed. The plaintiff attempted to have the court apply the “discovery rule” to his claim, which would extend the statute of limitations because he couldn’t have reasonably discovered the actual cause of his mother’s death until he reviewed the medical records. The trial court sided with the defendant and decided that the discovery rule does not apply in wrongful death cases, a ruling that was upheld on the initial appeal.

The Court Clarifies the Discovery Rule’s Application to Medical Malpractice Cases Alleging Wrongful Death

The court was critical of the rulings that dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, finding that the logic of the lower courts was not in accordance with the obvious intention of the legislature and prior high court rulings. The state court reversed the lower court rulings and clarified that the discovery rule applies in medical malpractice cases, whether the ultimate result was the injury or the death of the patient. Based on the high court’s ruling, the plaintiff’s claim will return to the district court and proceed toward a settlement or trial.

Florida’s Application of the Discovery Rule

Victims of medical malpractice in Florida are entitled to similar protections to those granted to the plaintiff in the above case, and they can often employ the discovery rule to extend the state’s two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. Victims of medical malpractice in Florida are generally given two years from the date that the malpractice was discovered to file a notice of claim with any defendants. Claims may be barred if they are filed more than four years after the date of the alleged malpractice, unless the plaintiff can prove an intentional misrepresentation or fraud concealed the facts from their view. In cases of fraud, concealment, or misrepresentation, Florida malpractice victims may have up to seven years from the date of an injury to file a claim against a responsible party.

Are You a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you suspect that you or a loved one has been injured or killed because of the negligence of a doctor or another medical provider, you may be entitled to compensation for your claim. The discovery rule could apply to your case if the negligent act occurred more than two years ago. Even if you’re unsure of your claim, the South Florida medical malpractice and wrongful death attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank can give you realistic advice on your eligibility for damages under state or federal laws. Schedule a free consultation with a skilled advocate today. Contact us at 877-448-8585 or use our web-based form to schedule a time for us to discuss your claim.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Court Refuses to Impose Sanctions Against Pharmacy for Destruction of Evidence in Prescription Error Lawsuit, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 4, 2016.

Court Upholds Verdict in Icy Road Car Accident Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 23, 2016.

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