What Are Your Rights? A Proposed Law to Change the Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Announcer: The following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding, and Mazzotti.

Interviewer: In many instances, by the time a patient realizes their doctors failed to properly diagnose them with something like cancer, the statute of limitations to take action has already passed foreclosing the possibility of any legal remedy. Here to help examine this issue is a partner, Rosemarie Bogdan. from the law firm Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Rosemarie, thanks for being with us today.

Rosemarie: Oh, my pleasure.

Interviewer: So, what is the statute of limitations, how long is it for medical malpractice, and why do we have these kind of protections for people?

Rosemarie: Well, with regard to statute of limitations, there are a couple reasons we have them. One is that a defendant can’t go on indefinitely with a claim hanging over their head. They have to know, after a certain amount of time, that the claim won’t be brought. Second, if claims are brought really late, then all the evidence can disappear and it’s really hard to defend against them or pursue them. So we have statutes of limitations for those two reasons. Medical malpractice cases have a shorter statute of limitations in New York which is two and a half years.

Interviewer: So, we talk about that limited timeframe. Why is it, or how, I guess, is a client supposed to try and bring that legal action if they were told within that timeframe that they were actually okay?

Rosemarie: Well, that’s the reason for this new law and why we’re here today is that if someone had gone, for example, to the doctor and they had gotten a clean read on a radiological film or told by their doctor they didn’t have cancer, but then three years later, they’re having other medical treatment and they find out that they do have cancer and then they look back at a previous film and say, “Oh, but it was there three years ago,” that person has no right in New York to bring that claim because it’s been two and a half years, more than that, since their first radiological study where they were told that they didn’t have a problem.

And so how could that person bring a cause of action when they were told they were fine? They’re happy, they go about their way, and so they’re precluded from bringing a case even though they had no knowledge that there was an error and they weren’t told that they had a tumor, for example.

Interviewer: And so we’re talking about a proposed law to maybe change some of this or do something about it. What is that law, what does that do for these failed diagnoses?

Rosemarie: Well, the big change would be that their time period for bringing a cause of action would start from when they discovered they actually had the cancer and it was missed on the earlier film or missed by the doctor on the earlier exam. So, instead of the time period starting when the miss occurred, it would start when the patient was informed that the miss occurred. And that would be crucial for allowing patients to have the ability to recover in these instances, so.

Interviewer: Seems certainly, like, it could help and benefit those patients.

Rosemarie: Absolutely. And this bill right now has passed the assembly, it’s passed the Senate, and it’s our hope that the governor signs it into law.

Interviewer: Something that we’ll stay on top of, I’m sure. Rosemarie Bogdan with Martin, Harding and Mazzotti, thank you so much.

Rosemarie: You’re welcome.