Ohio Judge Proves Too Quick to Dismiss Medical Malpractice Case

Judges are human beings like the rest of us. Sometimes they make mistakes when judging a case. But when it’s your case, such mistakes can be devastating–especially when you are suing a negligent healthcare provider for medical malpractice. This is where working with an experienced Cleveland medical malpractice lawyer can prove the difference between saving your claim and walking away from court with nothing.

Appeals Court Reinstates Negligence Case Against Ohio Dentist

Consider this recent decision from the Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals, Baker v. Scheetz. The plaintiff went to the defendant, a dentist, for a cosmetic surgery procedure. Unfortunately, the plaintiff alleged the defendant screwed up, and as a result of his negligence she sustained “severe and permanent injuries and disability, including requiring additional surgery.”
Ohio has a strict one-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims. However, when the one-year clock starts to run depends on the facts of a particular case. Many times, it is simply the date when the actual act of malpractice occurred. But in other situations, it may be when the physician-patient relationship itself “terminated.” So the critical test for purposes of the one-year deadline is when the plaintiff’s right to sue “accrued.”
On top of that, Ohio law also requires a medical malpractice plaintiff file an “affidavit of merit”–essentially a statement from another qualified doctor explaining how the defendant provider deviated from the accepted standard of care–with his or her lawsuit. The affidavit is normally filed at the same time as the lawsuit itself, although the plaintiff may seek a 90-day extension for “good cause.”
In the Baker case, the trial judge took the unusual step of dismissing the plaintiff’s lawsuit sua sponte, or “on his own accord.” The judge determined the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The defendant never raised this issue, however, although he did argue the plaintiff failed to file her affidavit of merit on time.
The Tenth District ruled the trial court overstepped its bounds with the sua sponte dismissal. The problem here was rooted in yet another specific Ohio rule governing medical malpractice claims. As noted above, the statute of limitations is one year. But if at any point during that year the plaintiff gives the defendant health care provider “written notice” of her intention to sue, then the deadline is extended to 180 days from the date of the notice.
Here, the plaintiff did provide such notice. But the trial court said that even taking that into account, the statute of limitations still expired before the plaintiff filed her lawsuit. The Tenth District said that was not necessarily the case.
The trial court’s math works if you assume the plaintiff’s cause of action accrued on the date of the alleged malpractice. But as noted above, a malpractice claim can accrue on a later date, such as when the physician-patient relationship ended. According to the plaintiff, the defendant ended the relationship several months after the botched surgery when he “refused to provide further treatment.” If you use that termination date as the starting point, the appeals court said, the plaintiff did file her lawsuit on-time, taking into account the 180-day extension. It was therefore improper for the trial court to simply dismiss the lawsuit on its own accord.

Contact the Cleveland Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Tittle & Perlmuter Today

As you can see, timing is everything in a medical malpractice case. That is why it is essential to speak with a qualified Cleveland medical malpractice lawyer as soon as you believe you might have a claim against a healthcare provider such as a hospital, a clinic or a nursing home. Contact Tittle & Perlmuter at (216) 308-1522 if you need assistance today.

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