Medical malpractice claims in Ohio are subject to strict time limits. Normally, a patient has just one year from the date of a loss or injury to sue a healthcare provider. But there are exceptions to this statute of limitations. For example, if you send the doctor, hospital, or other healthcare provider advance notice of your intention to file a malpractice claim, the deadline to actually file the suit is extended 180 days. There are also situations where the provider may agree to an additional extension of the statute of limitations, particularly in cases where it may be possible to negotiate an out-of-court settlement.
Doctor Unable to Escape Malpractice Claim After Court Clerk’s Error
Another exception to the statute of limitations is for medical malpractice claims involving minors. For these individuals, the one-year clock does not start to run until their 18th birthday, regardless of when the actual injury occurred. In other words, if you are injured due to malpractice when you were 15, you would have until your 19th birthday to sue the doctor in question, subject to any of the extensions described above.
Here is a practical example of what we are talking about. This is taken from a recent Cleveland medical malpractice case, Jones v. University Hospitals. The plaintiff was born in April 1999. She received medical care from the defendants–a doctor, a medical practice group, and a hospital–during a period extending from 2011 to 2014. In April 2016, the plaintiff’s lawyer sent 180-day notices to the medical group and the doctor, but not the hospital. But all of the defendants subsequently entered into an agreement to further “toll” the statute of limitations for any claims that had not expired as of December 31, 2016, in order to facilitate settlement talks.
When no settlement was reached, the plaintiff’s attorney filed a formal medical malpractice complaint against the hospital and the doctor on March 30, 2017. The Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts returned the complaint, however, alleging it was “not properly formatted and did not comply with the local [court] rules.” The plaintiff then filed her complaint with the court electronically on May 31, 2017.
The defendants argued the plaintiff failed to file her lawsuit before the statute of limitations expired. Essentially, the limitations period would normally have ended on the plaintiff’s 19th birthday–April 26, 2016–but it was extended by the 180-day notice and the tolling agreement. But as the hospital defendants noted, the tolling agreement only extended the deadline for claims “not already barred by the statute of limitations.” And they never received 180-day letters, so those claims on the plaintiff’s 19th birthday.
As for the doctor, he maintained that since the clerk rejected the plaintiff’s initial complaint filed on March 30, 2017–two days before the tolling agreement’s revised deadline–any claims against him were similarly barred by the statute of limitations.
In sorting all this out, the Ohio 8th Appellate District split the difference. It agreed with the hospital defendants that any claims against them expired on the plaintiff’s 19th birthday. But it also said the plaintiff’s lawsuit could still proceed against the doctor, because the clerk had no legal authority to reject her initial complaint for technical mistakes. Therefore, the plaintiff did comply with the statute of limitations with respect to the doctor.
Contact a Cleveland Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today
Medical malpractice cases often require navigating a host of complex rules and requirements. That is why it is important to work with an experienced Cleveland medical malpractice lawyer before pursuing any claim against a hospital or healthcare provider. Contact Tittle & Perlmuter at (216) 308-1522 if you need help with a medical malpractice matter today. We serve clients in Cleveland, Lakewood, Elyria, Chardon, Sandusky and surrounding areas.