The proposed change to the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits, known as Lavern’s Law, died in committee last week. This bill was named for Lavern Wilkinson, a Brooklyn mom who was a victim of medical malpractice at a Kings County Hospital but was unable to sue because of New York’s statute of limitations. The bill had reached the floor of the Assembly for a vote last week, but the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, put the bill on hold once it became clear it would not pass in the Senate.
Lavern Wilkinson died of curable lung cancer back in March because doctors failed to tell her of a small mass on her chest x-ray two years before. After having severe issues breathing, another doctor in Kings County discovered the mistake. The doctor apologized for what happened to her and had to tell her that she was going to die because of this preventable mistake. However, by this time Wilkinson was not able to sue because the two and a half year statute of limitations had already run.
New York is just one of six states where the statute of limitations starts to run from the day the negligence occurred. The other 44 states start the clock running from the time a person could have reasonably known about or discovered the malpractice.
Lawmakers face opposition for bills that would change the statute of limitations from the state medical society and hospital and doctors’ groups. They argue that medical malpractice insurance rates would increase dramatically.
Despite the bill not making it to the floor for a vote in the Senate, the issue of New York’s statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases has made more progress this year than it ever has before. This is due to the attention it received from Lavern Wilkinson’s situation. Assemblywoman Weinstein continues to be hopeful that next year more progress will be made.
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