Delay in Filing Results In Dismissal Of Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

medical_drug_medicinal_products-1024x683We have all heard advice not to procrastinate. This is especially true if you are considering bringing a lawsuit. If you are considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against your doctor, you cannot wait indefinitely because Louisiana law has strict time limits for filing medical malpractice lawsuits. The following case out of Lafayette Parish shows the harsh consequences if you delay filing your case.

While working, Daniel McCauley injured his knee. He underwent treatment, but it was unsuccessful. McCauley returned to the same doctor, Dr. Malcolm Stubbs, approximately six years later, complaining of pain. He underwent additional procedures on his knee for the next five years. Nonetheless, McCauley continued to suffer from knee pain, which he claims to still suffer from to this day. 

Over a year after stopping treatment from Dr. Stubbs, McCauley filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Stubbs related to procedures Dr. Stubbs had performed on McCauley three and six years before him filing the lawsuit. The trial court granted an exception of prescription and dismissed the claim because McCauley did not file the lawsuit within three years or one year after his doctor-patient relationship with Dr. Stubbs ended. McCauley appealed, arguing the trial court erred in holding his claim was time barred.

La. R.S. 9:5628 establishes the prescriptive period for bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit. It states a patient must file a medical malpractice lawsuit within one year of when the alleged malpractice occurred or within one year of when the patient discovered malpractice has occurred. La. R.S. 9:5628 also includes a three-year limit for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, irrespective of the date of discovery of the alleged malpractice. 

Here, over three years elapsed between the time when the alleged medical malpractice occurred and when McCauley filed his medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Stubbs. McCauley argued he was continuing to receive treatment from Dr. Stubbs, so the prescriptive period did not start to run. He also argued he had not discovered the malpractice until after his doctor-patient relationship with Dr. Stubbs ended. 

This continuing treatment exception does not apply to every situation; instead, it only applies where there is evidence the medical professional concealed or misrepresented information to the patient. McCauley had the burden of establishing the time for bringing his lawsuit had not prescribed because a complaint is considered on its face to be prescribed. Here, McCauley did not present sufficient evidence that Dr. Stubbs’ conduct involved concealment, fraud, misrepresentation, or other ill practices such that the continuing treatment exception would apply to McCauley’s claim. For example, Dr. Stubbs’ notes suggested it might be a good idea for him to seek a second opinion from a different doctor. Therefore, the appellate court held the trial court did not err in ruling McCauley’s claim was barred by the three-year limit. 

The case of Daniel McCauley serves as a stark reminder of the severe consequences that can arise from procrastinating when considering a medical malpractice lawsuit. Louisiana law imposes strict time limits for filing such claims, and failing to adhere to these limitations can result in the dismissal of the case, as McCauley experienced. Despite ongoing treatment and continued suffering, McCauley’s failure to file the lawsuit within three years of the alleged malpractice ultimately barred his claim. 

It is vital for individuals contemplating a medical malpractice lawsuit to consult with a skilled attorney who can provide guidance on the required time limits and other critical deadlines. By seeking legal counsel promptly, one can ensure a timely pursuit of justice and maximize their chances of a favorable outcome in their case.

Additional Sources: Daniel P. McCauley v. Malcolm Stubbs

Article Written By Berniard Law Firm 

Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Prescriptive Period for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits: Late Filing Bars Medical Malpractice Claim Against Tulane-Lakeside Hospital. When Do I Need Expert Testimony for a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

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