Foreign Objects and the Statute of Limitations

When discussing foreign objects within the context of medical malpractice law suits, it is important to know what a foreign object is.  This is because the very phrase “foreign object” does not mean what most people think it means.  

Most readers will most likely ascertain that these objects are things that which are not natural to the body.  The problem is that such a definition is too broad. This is because some foreign objects are intended to be left in a patient’s body, and other objects are not meant to be forever left inside someone’s body.  

For example, a pace maker or hip replacement components are not natural to the human body, but they are intended to be left inside of heart surgery patients and hip replacement patients.  Foreign objects, therefore, are those items that are not intended to be left inside of patients.  

Typically, foreign objects are sponges, clamps, scalpels, pads, and surgical gloves.  When left inside of patients, these objects can cause extreme pain, infection, and sometimes lead to death.  Additional surgeries will be needed to remove the foreign object.

Leaving a foreign object inside of a patient is negligence.  It is medical malpractice.  With all medical malpractice cases, the injured patient must sue the bad doctor within 2 ½ years from the date that the negligent act occurred. 

However, the experienced Kingston, New York medical malpractice attorney knows that thanks to the case, Flanagan v. Mount Eden General Hospital, and a subsequent law placed onto New York books in 1975, the statute of limitations for foreign object cases can be extended beyond the general 2 ½ year rule.

The foreign object statute of limitation rule, a.k.a. the discovery rule, says that foreign object victims have up to a year to file suit after the date on which they discovered that a foreign object was inside their body.  This is a tricky rule and some nuances apply, therefore, talking with an experienced Kingston medical malpractice attorney on the topic is highly advised.  

Here is a hypothetical to illustrate the point.  Patient X has gastric bypass surgery on January 2, 2015.  A surgical glove was left inside his body.  Nothing happens that would lead the patient or anyone else to know that the glove was left inside his body until January of 2017.  

The negligent act occurred back in January of 2015 and under general medical malpractice rules, the patient would have until around July 2017 to sue the bad doctor.  Patient X would have only six months left on the clock to sue.  But since this is a foreign object case, Patient X would have more time; a year from January 2017.  Which as you see extends the clock beyond the normal 2 ½ years.  

But what do you think?  I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected]  You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.

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