How Long Can You Wait To File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Louisiana?

39-Email-04-02-19-picture-1024x683The death of a loved one is always a traumatic experience for family and friends, especially if the death could have been prevented or is at the fault of the hospital. When someone feels as if medical malpractice has occurred, Louisiana has strict guidelines regarding filing a medical malpractice lawsuit and someone unfamiliar with the legal process can easily be confused or frustrated by this complex process. For example, in Louisiana you have one year following a death to file a medical malpractice suit, however, is that filing due at by the close of business at the one year or is the filing due by midnight? The Louisiana Supreme Court recently consolidated two cases that answered such questions on when you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. 

The facts of these two cases are similar, which is exactly why the Louisiana Supreme Court decided to consolidate these cases. In the case of Rose Tillman, who sadly passed away on May 22, 2012, her surviving children’s request for a medical malpractice claim was sent to the Louisiana Division of Administration (DOA) on May 22, 2013 after 5 pm, after the DOA office had closed. As a result, the  DOA’s filing system received the request on the following business day, May 23. In the case of Peighton Miller she received a shoulder injury on April 4, 2012 while in the care of a hospital. Again, a malpractice claim was sent to the DOA on April 4, 2013 after the DOA’s 5pm closure. The facts in these cases are undisputed, and at trial, the 24th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson court ruled in favor of Tillman, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Peighton Miller.

In response, Tulane Lakeside Hospital and Durga Ram Sure (the plaintiffs) appealed the decision. Per  La. C.C. art. 3492, defendants have one year to file a malpractice claim and that is one-year prescription begins the day the injury was received. In addition, La. R.S. 9:5628 describes how actions against healthcare providers must commence within 1 year of the sustainment or the discovery of the injury. Moreover, Section 1231.8(a)(2)(b) of the Medical Malpractice Act states how the request for a malpractice review “shall be deemed filed on the date of receipt of the request stamped and certified by the division of administration.” On appeal, the plaintiffs insisted the statute was too vague because it was the DOA’s understanding that a malpractice claim has not been received until it had been “stamped and certified,” which happens during the business day meaning any documents received after 5pm have technically not been received by the DOA until the following business day. However, according to La. C.C. art. 12 when the words of a law are ambiguous or confusing, the words should be evaluated to fit the purpose of the law.

After reviewing the law and prior cases, the Supreme Court of Louisiana ruled in favor of Tillman and Miller arguing that the DOA’s method of forward-stamping received request is unauthorized by the statues provided.

Additional Sources: Tillman in Consolidation with Miller

Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer Lynsey Smith

Additional Berniard Law Firm Articles on Louisiana Medical Malpractice Lawsuits: Lafayette Medical Malpractice Claim Dismissed for Untimely Filing