The Medical Liability Act was enacted in 2003 in an attempt to make health care more accessible and reduce insurance premiums. The Act explains that under the “statute of repose” individuals may only bring medical malpractice claims within 10 years of the medical treatment giving rise to the claim.
In Tenet Hosps. Ltd. v. Rivera, Ms. Rivera claimed that when she was nine months pregnant she started feeling ill and was experiencing a cough and a fever. She visited an emergency room at Providence Hospital in Texas. A doctor at the hospital examined her and subsequently discharged her. The next day, Ms. Rivera returned to the hospital after noticing a decrease in her child’s movement. Her child was delivered via an emergency C-section. Ms. Rivera claims that her child’s lack of oxygen resulted in severe and permanent neurological disabilities.
Ms. Rivera felt that the treating emergency room doctor should have notified Ms. Rivera’s OB/GYN of the issues she was experiencing and taken additional steps to ensure the health and safety of her child. Ms. Rivera’s attorney sent a notice of a claim to the hospital in 2004, nearly eight years after the incident, and did not file suit until March 2011 – 15 years after the injury and five years after the statute barred the claim.
Ms. Rivera argued that the statute is unconstitutional under the “open courts” provision because the statute extinguished her child’s claims even before she reached the age of majority. The court found that Ms. Rivera acted as her child’s agent and that her lawyer sent the hospital notice but did not pursue the case for another six years. The court found that Ms. Rivera and her attorney were given an adequate “grace period,” and their lack of diligence did not amount to a defect in the statute.
Ms. Rivera also claimed that the statute was unconstitutionally retroactive because her child had to bring the claim before reaching the age of majority. However, the court agreed with the hospital in that the statute allowed Ms. Rivera to bring the claim three years after it took effect.
The court finally concluded that the statute was constitutional and that Ms. Rivera could not bring her claim.
Importance of Legal Counsel
This case exemplifies the importance of entrusting legal issues to diligent counsel. Although the merits of the actual medical malpractice claim were not discussed, there is some possibility that if this claim was heard that it would have resulted in Ms. Rivera’s favor. However, the lack of diligence imputed the negative result onto Ms. Rivera and her child. Following statutes and deadlines are crucial when pursuing a claim, and the failure to do so can have dire consequences.
Ensuring Proper Representation
If you or anyone you know has been involved in a personal injury or medical malpractice case, please contact our office at 352-387-8700 to set up a free initial consultation. You can also contact us online. You or your loved one may be entitled to monetary compensation for your past medical bills, future medical expenses, and other costs related to the pain and suffering you have experienced.
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Police Identify Hit-and-Run Driver Responsible for the Deaths of Three Single Mothers, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 31, 2014.