Although there are several deadlines that may apply in South Carolina medical malpractice lawsuits, one of the most important is the statute of limitations. Claims not filed within the limitations period are usually dismissed, regardless of the merits of the plaintiff’s case. While there are a few exceptions, only cases that fit the very narrow exceptions set forth by statute and case law will survive a late-filed complaint.
Another important deadline to note is the statute of repose. While the statute of limitations gives an injured person a certain amount of time to seek legal relief following the discovery of an act of malpractice, the statute of repose puts a limit on the time that a plaintiff has to file suit after the actual act of negligence, regardless of when the plaintiff discovered the mistake.
Facts of the Case
In a recent appellate case arising from Charleston County, the plaintiff was a woman who had been treated for bi-polar disorder and depression over a multi-year period by the defendants, a psychiatrist and a medical center. The plaintiff filed a notice of intent to file suit against the medical center in 2010, claiming that she had been left with cognitive impairment and memory loss as a result of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). She later filed a stipulation of dismissal without prejudice of her notice of intent to sue.
In 2011, the plaintiff filed a complaint against the medical center, asserting a cause of action for medical malpractice. In 2012, she amended her complaint to included the psychiatrist as a party defendant. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the ground that the plaintiff’s claims were time-barred by the statute of repose.
The Court’s Decision
The South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed. Since the treatment about which the plaintiff complained began in 2003, the trial court had held that the six-year statute of repose ran in 2009, barring the plaintiff’s action. However, as the plaintiff pointed out on appeal, her treatment continued until 2008 and included 86 separate ECT treatments, some of which occurred within the statute of repose period.
In ruling in favor of the plaintiff, the court of appeals reasoned that, since the plaintiff had alleged injuries that occurred as a result of treatment by the defendants within six years prior to the filing of her lawsuit, the trial court erred in finding as a matter of law that her claim was barred by the statute of repose.
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Submitting oneself to the care and treatment of a physician or another medical care provider involves a certain amount of inherent trust – a belief that the health care professional will exercise sound judgment and adhere to the standards of care established by his or her profession. When this trust is broken by a serious mistake in medical judgment, it can be difficult for the patient to summon the courage to take legal action. If you or a loved one has been hurt by the mistake of a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional, an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Patrick E. Knie Law Offices in Spartanburg and Greenville is here to help. For a free appointment to discuss your case, call us at 864-582-5118 today.
Related Blog Posts:
South Carolina Appeals Court Finds That Woman’s Medical Malpractice Case is Barred by “the Law of the Case” Doctrine, Due to Previous Litigation
South Carolina Court Rejects “First Diagnosis Rule” in Measuring Medical Malpractice Statute of Repose