Mellino Robenalt States Statue Of Limitations Filing Date May Be A Moving Target In Medical Malpractice Cases
Cleveland, OH (Law Firm Newswire) September 2, 2013 – This case involved a man who apparently received unnecessary heart surgeries. He was caught in the middle of a health care fraud case.
“Although this reported case, Julian Peacock et al. v. Peninsula Regional Medical Center, et al., took place in Maryland, the court’s decision does have ramifications for other jurisdictions,” said Tom Robenalt, a Cleveland medical negligence lawyer with Mellino Robenalt. The court declined to toss a medical malpractice lawsuit out of court filed by a husband and wife who were told that the husband’s numerous heart stent surgeries were necessary, but were then informed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that they were not necessary and were part of a criminal investigation of their doctor for health care fraud.
The medical center and the defendant doctor asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the plaintiff waited too long to file it. The federal trial court did not agree. They stated dismissing the case would be premature, as the facts of the case were questions for a jury to resolve.
The lawsuit alleged that the named defendant doctor, his medical group, the regional medical center and the regional health system, performed unnecessary heart procedures on the plaintiff. The defendant doctor is in federal prison serving a term for criminal health care fraud relating to heart procedures he performed between 2003 and 2006.
The plaintiff in this case went to the local E.R. in 2004 with nausea, vomiting and chest pains. The defendant doctor did a catheterization and inserted a stent into his heart. Two months later, the plaintiff had another operation and three stents were placed in his heart. He returned in October of the same year for another catheterization. Then, in 2006 he was given an angioplasty and another stent.
Subsequently, the plaintiff found out about the doctor being investigated for fraud. He called a special number to find out if his surgeries had been unnecessary. He was told his operations were necessary and he chose not to speak with an attorney at that time. He then got a letter from the DOJ saying his stent operations were unnecessary. “At that point, he filed a lawsuit in August of 2012, stating negligence, loss of consortium, lack of informed consent and fraud by intential misrepresentation,” Robenalt explained.The defendants argued the suit was barred by the statute of limitations for medical malpractice, in that a case must be filed five years from the time the injury was committed, or three years from the date the injury was discovered.
“The federal court denied all motions brought by the defendants and asserted the plaintiff had demonstrated enough evidence that a jury could see they were defrauded by the doctor and that the physician had hidden the plaintiff’s medical condition in order to perform more surgeries to obtain more money from the health system,” Robenalt added. The lesson in this case is that not all provisions of a statute of limitations may apply, depending on the circumstances of the case.