SW Legal studies in Business

Time for Filing Malpractice Suit May Begin from Date of Any Negligent Act
Description

Georgia high court held that the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice suit need not begin to run from the date of the first negligent act. If there were multiple negligent acts over time, the clock could begin to run from the occurrence of any act.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Malpractice, Negligence, Multiple Acts, Statute of Limitations

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Betty Lyon had her spleen removed in 1982 as a result of an injury in a car accident. In 2004, she developed overwhelming post-splenectomy infection (OPSI), a condition that resulted in the amputation of parts of her arms and legs. In 2006 she sued physicians who had treated her prior to the onset of OPSI. She alleged that the doctors failed to warn her about the risk of developing OPSI, tell her of the preventative measures she should take to reduce the risk of developing OPSI, and failed to prescribe appropriate medications and vaccinations that could have prevented infections that result in OPSI. The doctors answered that the statute of limitations had expired as they had begun treating her more than five years before she filed suit. The trial court dismissed the suit; the appeals court reversed. The doctors appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. The statute of limitations (or period of repose) does not necessarily begin to run from the date of the first negligent act, which the doctors admit would be more than five years before the suit was filed. The clock could begin to run with respect to each doctor at the time of each encounter with the patient when they failed to provide the alleged proper advice. Multiple breaches of the standard of care may constitute new and separate instances of professional negligence and more than one negligent act may contribute to the injury.

Citation

Schramm v. Lyon, 673 S.E.2d 241 (Sup. Ct., Ga., 2009)

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