South Carolina Court Rejects “First Diagnosis Rule” in Measuring Medical Malpractice Statute of Repose – Marshall v. Dodds

Civil claims not asserted in a timely fashion face dismissal on procedural grounds, regardless of the merits of the underlying complaint. The time period that a claimant has to assert his or her rights varies from case to case, depending upon the state in which the claim arose and the nature of the complaint.

In South Carolina, some claims (including medical malpractice claims) are governed by both a statute of limitations and a statute of repose. Essentially, the statute of repose allows additional time in situations in which the plaintiff does not discover the act of malpractice within the time otherwise allowed by the statute of limitations, but it still puts an outer window on the period for filing suit.

Facts of the Case

In the case of Marshall v. Dodds, the plaintiffs were a married couple who filed suit against the defendant medical providers, due to the providers’ alleged failure to properly diagnose the female plaintiff with a rare form of blood cancer known as Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia (or lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma). According to the complaint, the female plaintiff was treated by the defendants for several years before her disease was eventually diagnosed in 2010. The plaintiffs sought monetary compensation for damages arising from medical malpractice and loss of consortium.

The trial court in Charleston County granted summary judgment to the defendants on the grounds that the plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the South Carolina statute of repose for medical malpractice lawsuits (codified at South Carolina Code § 15-3-545(A)) because the suit was filed more than six years after the defendants’ first alleged negligent omissions in failing to diagnose the female plaintiff’s illness.

The South Carolina Court of Appeals

The appellate court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants. In rejecting the “first misdiagnosis rule” advocated by the defendants, the court noted that such a rule would allow medical professionals to escape liability for subsequent acts of negligence even when these acts clearly breached the standard of care to the patient.

Allowing this to happen simply because the provider had also failed to properly diagnose the patient’s condition in the past was not the intention of the General Assembly when it enacted the statute of repose. Therefore, the court remanded the case for further proceedings because it found that the lower tribunal had erred in dismissing the plaintiffs’ complaint as untimely.

If You Suspect You Have Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice

As much as we might like to believe otherwise, doctors make mistakes every day. Each year, tens of thousands of patients suffer serious injuries or even perish as a result of medical errors. If you or a family member has been affected by a physician’s deviation from the accepted standard of care, you have the right to seek compensation in a court of law. To talk to an experienced South Carolina medical malpractice lawyer about your legal rights, call the Law Offices of Patrick E. Knie at 864-582-5118 and ask for a free consultation at our Spartanburg or Greenville offices.

Related Blog Posts:

South Carolina’s Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Was Not Tolled, Despite Alleged Victim’s Mental Incapacity – Sims v. Amisub of South Carolina, Inc.

Ruling Reverses Decades-Old Medical Malpractice Limitation

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