A bill currently waiting for a vote in the senate has the ability to completely change the scope of medical malpractice cases in New York. The law is named after Lavern Wilkinson, a 41-year-old Brooklyn mother who died in 2013 from a form of lung cancer that was believed to be curable. Ms. Wilkinson’s passing came after doctors at Kings County Hospital neglected a small cancerous mass on an X-ray in 2010. Unfortunately, due to the statute of limitations, Lavern’s family was unable to file a lawsuit despite not discovering her illness until 2013. If the law were to pass, it would allow victims of medical malpractice more time to file a lawsuit.
Under the current law, victims of medical malpractice at public hospitals only have 15 months to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, while patients of private hospitals only have three years. Unfortunately, the current law doesn’t take into consideration a patient’s date of discovery of their malpractice-related ailment. For instance, if a patient has cancer and is misdiagnosed at a public hospital, they have only have 15 months to file a lawsuit. But if the patient’s cancer isn’t discovered within that 15 month period, they’re barred by the statute of limitations from filing a lawsuit; even if the misdiagnosis ultimately costs them their life.
Lavern’s Law , if it passes the senate, would effectively change the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. Under Lavern’s Law, a patient who has suffered from medical malpractice would have three years from the “date of discovery” of their ailment to file a lawsuit. In other words, the clock for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit wouldn’t start ticking until the ailment caused by the patient’s healthcare provider is discovered; providing ample time for the patient and their family to consider their options. If this law had been passed before Mrs. Wilkinson’s death, her family would have been able to recover compensation for the economic and non-economic losses caused by her misdiagnosis.
Unfortunately, because the senate failed to vote on the bill during their last session, New Yorkers will likely have to wait for the next New York legislative session before knowing the fate of Laverne’s law. That said, New York elected officials widely believe the law will pass the senate if brought to a vote. New Yorker’s can only hope that Lavern’s Law passes before any other patients and their families are hurt by the current antiquated laws governing medical malpractice.