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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Texas Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

In November, 1995, a Texas woman, one Emmalene Rankin, had a hysterectomy and all was apparently well until July, 2006. At that time she developed abdominal pain and doctors found that a sponge had been left inside her at the time of the hysterectomy.

Rankin sued two physicians and the Methodist Healthcare System of San Antonio. However, Texas has a law that limits medical malpractice claims after ten years have passed and in this case, more than ten years had passed since the sponge was left in Rankin. Texas lawmakers had been concerned about unlimited liability claims pushing up medical malpractice insurance rates to an unaffordable level and the ten year limit was created to help with that issue.

Texas Supreme Court Overthrows Her Appeal

Rankin’s suit argued that the ten-year limit violates an “open court” provision in the Texas Constitution. Apparently, her suit was thrown out but she appealed and the appeals court supported her suit. However, now the Texas Supreme Court has overthrown the appeals court decision.

"Giving wide berth to the Legislature's policy judgments, as we must, we cannot say lawmakers offended the Constitution by cutting off malpractice claims after giving claimants a decade to bring suit," Justice Don Willett wrote in the court opinion. “We have recognized that the length of time that insureds are exposed to potential liability has a bearing on the rates that insurers must charge.'

There is still the two-year statute of limitations as well. An injured patient has up to two years to file a medical malpractice claim, and that time period is counted from the day when the medical error is discovered. But if the ten year period has passed since the medical error, no suit can be filed.

Are you wondering if your injury was the result of a medical error? If you would like to schedule a free case review with one of our medical malpractice attorneys, please call or email us today. We have offices nationwide to serve you.

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posted by Benjamin A. Irwin at 9:39 AM

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