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State Supreme Court Allows Case to Proceed Against Doctor Four Years After Statute of Limitations Expires

Earlier this year in a closely divided decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court decided the case of Holaday v. Moore, in which the court affirmed the denial of a doctor’s motion to dismiss the charges against him for being brought after the statute of limitations had expired. The plaintiff added the defendant to an earlier filed suit after discovering that the doctor potentially had more involvement than they’d believed based on his prior representations.

in-the-medical-lab-1237146-mThe plaintiff alleged that the defendant intentionally concealed his involvement in the incident, and they didn’t discover his true involvement until discovering inconsistent testimony through various other doctors’ depositions. The defendant argued that the plaintiff had the necessary information to sue him within the two-year statute of limitations from the discovery of her injury, along with the other defendants.

The Plaintiff’s Injury and the Defendant’s Involvement

The plaintiff went to the emergency room in March 2004, suffering from back pain. The attending physician contacted the defendant, a neurosurgeon, for advice on how to handle the patient. The defendant told investigators that he was not on call that evening and briefly spoke on the phone about the plaintiff while driving. The plaintiff remained in the hospital overnight and didn’t receive surgery until 9:15 the following morning.The plaintiffs alleged that the delay in his receiving surgery resulted in permanent neurological damage.

Based on his injury, the plaintiff filed suit against the doctors involved in his treatment within the two-year statute of limitations, but he did not name the defendant neurosurgeon, based on his representations that he was not involved. It wasn’t until other doctors testified that the defendant was in fact on call that night and even said that he was coming to see the patient in the early morning that the plaintiff realized the defendant may be more responsible than he previously thought and filed suit against him as well.

The Court’s Justification for Allowing the Claim Against the Defendant

In Mississippi, as in Florida, medical malpractice cases must be filed within a two-year statute of limitations, which starts to run when the plaintiff discovers, or should have discovered, the negligence that led to the complained injury. Although the defendant wasn’t added to the case until well after two years from the plaintiff’s discovery of his injury, the Court relied on a separate provision in Mississippi law that extends the statute of limitations in cases in which the defendant has fraudulently or intentionally concealed their involvement in the case, holding that the defendant’s denial of his involvement early on presents an issue of fact when taken with the other doctors’ inconsistent testimony, and that it should be addressed by the jury.

The court’s ruling did not implicate the defendant with any real liability as of yet. It was only a ruling denying his motion to dismiss the case against him. Instead, the jury will be able to evaluate the testimony and decide if the defendant fraudulently concealed his involvement in a way that would justify extending the statute of limitations in this case.

Florida Medical Malpractice Statutes of Limitations

A Florida medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within a two-year statute of limitations. The two years begin to run when the patient discovers, or should have discovered through use of due diligence, the problem allegedly caused by medical negligence. Florida also has a repose statute, which bars all claims after four years from when the event occurred, whether or not they are discovered. To temper these limitations, Florida has a statute, like Mississippi, that can extend the limitations period an additional two years if the defendant fraudulently concealed their involvement in the case. Malpractice statutes of limitation and repose can be extremely complicated, and it is not always cut and dry as to whether a case was filed on time. Malpractice victims should always consult a qualified malpractice attorney in their state to evaluate their case as soon as possible after an incident

Are You a Malpractice Victim?

If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, it may not be too late to act. The Ocala medical malpractice attorneys at the Dean Law Firm offer central Florida clients top-notch representation in their medical malpractice cases. Our skilled attorneys can help you have the peace of mind to move forward with your malpractice claim. Seeking compensation for somebody else’s mistakes can be a difficult and taxing process. Make sure and have a skilled advocate on your side to make your case run as smoothly as possible. At the Dean Law Firm, we represent clients in many central Florida injury and negligence cases, including medical malpractice. Contact us online or call (352) 387-8700 to set up a free consultation with an Ocala personal injury lawyer today.

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