State Supreme Court Wrestles with Tricky Statute of Limitations Issue

Earlier this month, the Rhode Island Supreme Court decided an interesting case that may factor into how other states handle loss-of-consortium claims brought by parents against the medical professional they claim was responsible for their child’s preventable birth injury. In the case, Ho-Rath v. Rhode Island Hospital, the plaintiffs were the parents of a child born with a debilitating genetic birth defect.

The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants (several doctors and other medical professionals at the hospital where the mother was treated) were negligent in their treatment. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that it was negligent for them not to test the child, prior to her birth, for the genetic disorder that was known to be a possibility, given the family’s history with the disease. The case was brought when their child was 12 years old.

The parents sought compensation on behalf of their minor daughter, but also in their own capacity, seeking compensation for their loss of consortium. A loss of consortium claim seeks compensation for the loss in the enjoyment of another’s company, in this case, the couple’s child.

The Trial Court’s Opinion and the Appellate Court’s Reversal

The trial court dismissed the entire case as untimely. Under Rhode Island law, a medical malpractice case can be brought at one of two separate times, either within three years of the incident occurring or within three years of the minor reaching the age of majority.

Here, the court noted, it was not disputed that 12 years had elapsed since the time of injury. Therefore, the first option had expired. The court did note that the child would be able to bring the suit on her own behalf within three years of turning 18. However, the court explained that the parents’ claims would be barred, since their claims were independent claims that were subject to the initial three-year statute of limitations. Not satisfied with this result, the parents appealed the ruling.

On appeal, the court affirmed the dismissal of the case, agreeing that the young girl missed the first opportunity to bring the suit and now had to wait until she reached the age of majority. However, the court also determined that the parents’ claims were related to the daughter’s claims, and therefore they could be brought if and when she brought her claims.

Birth Injury Time Limits in Maryland

This case took place in Rhode Island. However, similar statutes of limitations apply here in Maryland as well. For instance, in Maryland a medical malpractice case must be brought within five years of the incident or within three years of the discovery of the injury, whichever is earlier.

If the case involves a minor, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor reaches 11 years old. In some cases, that tolling period may be extended until the minor reaches the age of 16. If you have questions regarding medical malpractice or birth injury cases in Maryland, contact a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney.

Are You in Need of an Experienced Personal injury Attorney?

If you believe that you have recently been the victim of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to monetary damages. However, the statutes of limitations in these cases are strict and can result in an otherwise meritorious case being permanently dismissed. Therefore, it is best to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to make sure that all procedural rules are followed. To learn more, and to schedule an appointment with an attorney, call 410-654-3600. Meeting with an attorney is free, and we won’t send you a bill unless we are able to recover for you.

More Blog Posts:

Mother of Child Born with Cerebral Palsy Claims Doctor Was Negligent, Maryland Accident Law Blog, May 11, 2015.

Substantial Lawsuit Brought Against Kaiser After Allegedly Botched Delivery, Maryland Accident Law Blog, April 22, 2015.

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