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Medical malpractice, brain injuries and statute of limitations

Anytime a Pennsylvania patient is administered anesthesia during surgery, there is always the danger of surgical error that could lead to injury. In another jurisdiction, the mother of a 13-year old girl is now trying to show that her daughter suffered brain injury due to medical malpractice, and that the responsible hospital also tried to conceal medical records that may have shown wrongdoing.

The girl in question had undergone heart surgery in December of 2006. The father of the girl was then told that the child suffered a brain injury, and that such injury would lead to permanent impairment.

Though the mother now alleges that there was medical malpractice, summary judgment was granted to the doctors and to the hospital because the mother failed to bring a lawsuit within one year of discovering the claimed malpractice. (Each state has its own individual statute of limitations when it comes to medical malpractice lawsuits, and the state where the malpractice was alleged has a 1-year statute of limitations period.)

The state's Supreme Court later reinstated the lawsuit. In so doing, the court was quoted as saying that the doctors "were unable to provide an explanation for how this tragic result arose from what was considered relatively minor surgery." However, the Supreme Court went on to say that the parents must show that the hospital withheld records that would have prevented the parents from filing a medical malpractice lawsuit within the 1-year statute of limitation period.

It is yet to be seen what the ultimate outcome of this case should be. What such a case does demonstrate is the extreme complexity of bringing medical malpractice lawsuits. If contemplating such a suit, parties would be well advised to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney that understands the laws and procedures that come along with bringing such a suit.

It would be tragic to allow a doctor or hospital to not be held responsible for a medical mistake because a statute of limitations was missed.

Source: Las Vegas Sun, "Family's brain-damage case against Sunrise Hospital is reinstated," by Cy Ryan, May 31, 2012

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