It is well known that statute of limitations are used as a “drop dead” date for which medical malpractice cases can be filed. If a potential plaintiff has not filed a medical malpractice lawsuit within a period of time deemed to be reasonable by a state's legislation, the plaintiff will be barred from pursuing legal remedies for their injury. However, an interesting situation recently arose in Connecticut where a plaintiff filed his original lawsuit within the requisite statute of limitations time period but wanted to broaden the scope of his suit after the statute of limitations had expired. So, the question was, is a plaintiff permitted to change their claim after the “drop dead” date passes? Connecticut says yes, as long as the amendment relates back to the original theory.
The plaintiff, Donald Briere, brought a lawsuit against Greater Hartford Orthopedic Group, P.C. and Dr. David Kruger based upon claims that medical malpractice occurred during his spinal surgery.
After the expiration of the statute of limitations, the plaintiff attempted to amend his complaint. Both the original and amended complaints shared the same claim that the Dr. Kruger failed to properly plan and perform the surgery through the use of an instrumentality in his control. However, the original complaint also included a claim of improper usage of a skull clamp. The amended attempted to replace that claim with details of the improper use of a retractor blade.
At trial, the lower court held the plaintiff to the claim he submitted prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations as they related to the negligent use of a skull clamp. However, because the plaintiff had abandoned the claim in his attempt to amend the original complaint, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants.
The plaintiff appealed the decision. The Appellate Court reversed the trial court's denial of Plaintiff's request to amend. In doing so, the court stated that the trial court improperly applied the relation back doctrine. Since the amended complaint contained a claim that related back to the original theory that the defendant was negligent during the surgery, the amended complaint should have been allowed.
The case was appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court's decision.
Medical malpractice can have devastating effects that last a lifetime. If you have been injured by a physician's neglect, attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian will work to get you the full compensation to which you are entitled. Call 800-529-6162 today or contact them online for a free case evaluation. They handle cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.