As a general matter, Georgia medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within two years from the date the claim arises. In most cases, a patient will be aware of a doctor’s negligence in the immediate aftermath of a surgery or procedure. In this situation, the claim is said to arise on the day the surgery or procedure is performed.
In other situations, however, a plaintiff may not realize that they have been a victim of medical malpractice until a later date. This may be because they did not suffer any symptoms until months or years later or because after the error, they were treated by the same physician and did not discover the error until they received a second opinion. In some rare cases, the treating physician actively covers up their alleged negligence through fraud. In each of these cases, the statute of limitations can be extended.
A recent case decided by the Court of Appeals of Georgia illustrates how a plaintiff’s late-filed claim against a dentist was excused based on the dentist’s fraud in covering up his own potential negligence.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was a patient of the defendant dentist. The defendant devised a care plan for the patient, which involved some procedures that were to be performed by a specialist. Among other things, the specialist placed the plaintiff’s dental implants according to the defendant’s plan.
After the implants were complete, the plaintiff began noticing problems. The plaintiff reported these problems to the defendant, who consulted with another dentist and determined that the implants had been improperly placed. However, the defendant did not inform the plaintiff of this fact. Instead, the defendant continued to try to work with the implants.
The plaintiff continued to suffer, and the defendant continued to make adjustments. The plaintiff was also visiting the specialist, complaining of her problems. The specialist did not agree with the defendant that the implants were improperly placed; however, the plaintiff did complain about the defendant to the specialist, and the specialist would inform the defendant of the plaintiff’s complaints.
Eventually, the plaintiff was referred to an independent dentist, who confirmed that the implants were not placed properly. As a result, the plaintiff needed several costly and painful follow-up surgeries. The plaintiff later filed a medical malpractice case against the defendant.
The Court’s Decision
The plaintiff’s case was filed more than two years after the defendant created the care plan, but less than two years after the plaintiff got a second opinion from the independent dentist. The court concluded that the plaintiff’s lawsuit was timely. The court explained that the plaintiff’s visit to the specialist after the implants were completed did not place her on notice of the defendant’s potential malpractice.
The court acknowledged that in many cases, when a plaintiff gets a second opinion, that will trigger the statute of limitations to begin running. However, here, the specialist was a part of the original care team and not totally independent. Thus, the court held that the only way the statute of limitations would begin to run is if the plaintiff were given actual notice of the defendant’s potential malpractice by the specialist.
Here, the court noted that the specialist did not provide the plaintiff with such notice, so the court determined that the statute of limitations did not begin to run until the plaintiff consulted with the independent dentist. Thus, her claim was timely.
Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a doctor’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation through a Georgia personal injury lawsuit. At McAleer Law, we represent medical malpractice victims and their families against the medical professionals responsible for their injuries. We provide free consultations to accident victims to discuss their case and determine how we can help. To learn more, call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation today.
See More Posts:
Georgia Court Determines Pharmacy Error Plaintiff’s Evidence Insufficient to Establish Medical Malpractice Claim, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, December 28, 2017.
Georgia Medical Malpractice Case Dismissed Based on Inadmissible Expert Testimony, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, January 4, 2018.