Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals, allowing for a more liberal reading of medical malpractice laws in the state, has granted a mother’s petition to amend her complaint against three doctors she alleged contributed to her daughter’s profound injuries at birth.
Our Cape Coral child injury attorneys understand the justices reviewing the case of Exposito v. University of Miami School of Medicine determined the statute of limitations can be tolled in instances where the plaintiff was unaware injuries may have been the result of medical malpractice.
Here, the plaintiff asserted she didn’t know medical malpractice may have played a role in her daughter’s birth injuries, which includes cerebral palsy, seizures, cortical blindness, encephalopathy and spastic quadriplegia. The girl’s twin had been born healthy, and the mother said it wasn’t until much later that wrongdoing by the doctors could have caused her daughter’s injuries.
In Florida, individuals asserting a claim of medical malpractice, particularly one against a public agency (which hospitals can be considered if they receive state and federal funding) must be timely filed within three years, per the statute of limitations. There must also be proper notice of filing to the defendants, per Florida’s Rules of Civil Procedure.
The girl in this case was born in 2005. However, the lawsuit against the doctors and the hospital wasn’t filed until 2010. One year prior, attorneys for the mother sent written notices of claim, citing the date of incident as being the girl’s 2005 birth date.
The defendants in the case moved to dismiss on the grounds it was time-barred. Further, the defendants argued the claims were governed by the Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Plan, and that the plaintiffs were therefore required to file the complaint with the Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Association. The circuit court stayed the action until the case could be presented. However, it was dismissed due to the child’s low birth weight.
The case was then bounced back to the circuit court, where the trial judge agreed it should be dismissed because it was filed outside of the three-year time frame.
The mother filed a motion to amend and offered a second amended complaint, which asserted specific allegations dating to July 2009, arguing the Public Health Trust breached its duty and was vicariously liable for omissions and acts by residents and attending staff. The court entered rejected this amended complaint, and the mother appealed.
The appellate court reversed on the grounds that Florida Statute 95.031(1) allows for the three-year statute of limitations to begin running at the time that such a claim “accrues,” and that the time of “accrual” can be both a factual and legal conclusion. Thus, the “accrual date” can be different than the actual “incident” date in some cases. In this case, it was not the girl’s birth that began the three-year statute, but the discovery of an actionable incident of medical malpractice.
Additionally, Florida Statute 95.11(4)(b) allows medical malpractice claims involving children can be brought in some cases up until their eighth birthday.
Here, the mother stated the doctors at the hospital persisted in allowing a vaginal birth, despite the fact there were numerous indications for 12 hours that her daughter was in distress. She alleges the physicians confused the twins while monitoring them in utero, causing them to believe they were both progressing normally, when in fact they were not.
This case is indicative of the fact that in law, there are always exceptions to the rules. Even when people may believe their case is time-barred, it’s worthwhile to at least meet with a personal injury lawyer to determine whether there are options for compensation that have yet to be considered.
Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.
Exposito v. University of Miami School of Medicine, June 18, 2014, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal
More Blog Entries:
Millea v. Erickson – Caretaker Liability for Child Injuries, June 30, 2014, Cape Coral Injury Lawyer Blog