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Malpractice suit dismissed for exceeding statute of limitations

As in most states, Ohio law imposes a statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims. Among other things, this is meant to ensure that evidence related to the case will not disappear, and witnesses will still be available to testify.

In Ohio, the statute of limitations runs out after a year, and starts when 1) the injury is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered, or 2) when the doctor/patient relationship regarding the condition in question ends, whichever is later. Whether or not the statute of limitations has “tolled” is a common legal question in malpractice litigation.

In a recent example, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that two plaintiffs’ lawsuit against a former pediatrician cannot proceed, because they filed suit too late. The plaintiffs say the defendant touched them inappropriately when he was their doctor, which was roughly from 2003 to 2009, according to a news report.

The plaintiffs sued in 2013, at least four years after they stopped getting treated by the defendant. In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations tolls after three years of the alleged injury or a year after the injury is discovered, and no longer than five years in any event.

The plaintiffs said they their injuries were psychological, and that they did not realize their injuries occurred until they saw a news report about the doctor. The defendant was found not guilty of criminal sexual assault charges in 2014, and settled two other charges.

The state Supreme Court ruled 5-2 to uphold lower court decisions dismissing the malpractice suit on statute of limitations grounds. The majority wrote that to rule otherwise would “result in a limitless extension”

Determining whether a malpractice lawsuit should be dismissed because of the statute of limitations has tolled is the job of a doctor’s medical malpractice defense attorney. This could be part of a larger strategy to protect the doctor’s practice.

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