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E.Y. v. United States – Statute of Limitations Tolled in Some Cases

In Florida, injured parties have a limited amount of time during which they can file a lawsuit to seek compensation. The amount of time they have varies based on the type of allegation.

For example, Florida Statute 95.11 holds general negligence claims must be filed within four years of the incident. Meanwhile, wrongful death and medical malpractice claims have to be filed within two years.

While the courts strictly adhere to these rules, our Broward County personal injury lawyers recognize there are some instances in which the statute of limitations can be “tolled,” or put on hold. While it is important to meet with an injury lawyer as soon as possible after the incident, it’s also notable that a case may not be a lost cause when the time elapsed exceeds these limits.

One such example was recently illustrated in E.Y., v. U.S., a medical malpractice action wherein one of the defendants was named slightly more than two years after child-birth injuries.

According to the plaintiff/mother, her son was diagnosed on diplegic cerebral palsy, and the condition was proximately caused by medical malpractice on behalf of two healthcare providers. One of those was the federally-funded center where she obtained prenatal care and the other was the private hospital where she gave birth.

While she originally filed her lawsuit in advance of the two-year limit where the hospital was concerned, she did not name the federally-funded center until two weeks after the statute of limitations had expired.

A district court granted the center’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds the lawsuit was filed too late.

Upon appeal, she indicated that while she knew she would sue the hospital, she was not aware that the center would be a party in the case until she received a partial set of requested medical records.

When the plaintiff delivered her baby at the hospital, no mention was made to her that the complications that resulted in the child’s permanent injuries could have been caused by the prenatal care she received.

When her attorneys requested medical records from the center, in preparation for litigation against the hospital, the center reportedly did not turn over all of those prenatal records. In fact, it did not do so until nearly a year later.

The center claimed the lawsuit was barred under the statute of limitations because the clock began ticking when she received those initial records. The appellate court disagreed.

The court asserted that the clock on the statute of limitations begins ticking either when the plaintiff obtains actual knowledge of purported negligence or when the person acquires information that would prompt a reasonable person to inquire further about the potential of the defendant’s involvement in the injury – whichever occurs first.

The court indicated that under the reasonable person standard, the plaintiff here would have had no reason to suspect the center was negligent just because the care she received at the hospital was allegedly substandard.

Therefore, the statute of limitations was effectively tolled until such time she received all medical records of the case, making her complaint timely, which means the case against both defendants will be allowed to proceed.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
E.Y., v. U.S., July 10, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

More Blog Entries:
Pralle v. Milwicz – Winning Accident Claim Requires Proof of Injury Cause, May 26, 2014, Broward County Injury Lawyers

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