Massachusetts Court Dismisses Medical Malpractice Case Filed Outside the Statute of Limitations

No matter how strong a plaintiff’s case, if he or she fails to file a lawsuit within the time period set forth by the applicable statute of limitations, he or she may be precluded from pursuing a claim. While there are some exceptions to the statutory limitations period they only apply in certain circumstances.  This was illustrated in Mendonca v. Walcott, a case in which the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s medical malpractice case due to the plaintiff’s failure to file within the three-year time period set forth by the applicable statute of limitations. If you or a loved one were injured due to negligent medical care, you should consult a knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury attorney to analyze the facts of your case and to assess whether you may be able to recover damages.

Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Treatment

Allegedly, the plaintiff began treatment with the defendant pediatrician when the plaintiff was 10 years old. When the plaintiff first began treating with the defendant in 2008, it was noted she was remarkably small for her age. In 2009, when she was 11 years old, the plaintiff complained of swollen glands in her neck, for which she was prescribed antibiotics. Later that year during her physical examination, it was again noted that she was very small for her age. The defendant did not examine the plaintiff’s neck during her physical. In 2011, it was noted the plaintiff was in the 5th percentile for her height and 1st for her weight.

Reportedly, on one occasion the plaintiff complained of various concerns and her neck was examined but no abnormality was noted, even though a photograph that was taken at that time depicted visible swelling in the neck. The plaintiff returned with complaints of a lump in her throat in the winter of 2011 and was examined by a nurse practitioner, who noted that the plaintiff’s thyroid felt enlarged. The plaintiff subsequently underwent a biopsy in January of 2012 and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant in August 2015. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff failed to file the lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations.

The Statute of Limitations for Massachusetts Medical Malpractice Actions

Under Massachusetts law, the statute of limitations for pursuing a medical malpractice action is three years from when the cause of action accrues. While the plaintiff did not dispute the applicable limitations period, she argued that she filed the claim within the time afforded by the statute. The court noted that an action accrues when a plaintiff knows or should know that he or she suffered an injury due to the defendant’s negligence. The court held that in evaluating whether a plaintiff had notice of harm, the standard imposed is whether a reasonably prudent person should have discovered the harm. Here, the court noted that the plaintiff’s mother and father both believed the defendant failed to diagnose the plaintiff when they learned the plaintiff had thyroid cancer in January 2012. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff’s lawsuit was untimely.

The plaintiff argued, however, that the date of accrual for her cause of action should be based upon the continuing treatment doctrine, which allows tolling of the limitations period where the plaintiff continues to treat with the defendant. The court was not persuaded by this argument, finding that the defendant did not actively partake in the plaintiff’s treatment after the plaintiff’s diagnosis, but merely was in contact with the plaintiff. Based on the foregoing, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

Consult an Experienced Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you suffered harm as a result of your medical care provider’s failure to diagnose you in a timely manner, you may be able to recover compensation via a medical malpractice lawsuit. It is prudent to meet with an experienced  Massachusetts personal injury attorney as soon as possible to avoid waiving your right to recover. The personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan will analyze the facts of your case and help you develop strong arguments in favor of your recovery of compensation. We can be reached at 508-822-6600 or through our online form to schedule a free and confidential meeting.

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Surety Bond of $120 Insufficient to Pursue Massachusetts Medical Malpractice Claim, September 6, 2018, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog