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A missed chance to right a wrong for many victims of medical malpractice

Did you know that in New York State, by the time you discover that you have been a victim of medical malpractice, it may already be too late to receive compensation? In New York, the statute of limitations for filing a suit against a municipal hospital is 15 months from the date of the malpractice, not the date in which a patient discovers a fatal or life-altering error has been made. Currently, 44 states have a statute which starts the clock ticking on the date that the patient discovers the malpractice, New York is not one of them.

What is Lavern’s Law and why should you care?

The New York State Assembly, with overwhelming bipartisan support, approved Lavern’s Law 99-23, which was written to change the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice suit against a public hospital and introduce a “date of discovery” statute. Unfortunately, this law was never brought up for a vote in the Senate. New York legislators have been locked in a tug-of-war for decades over amending the law, with the medical and insurance industry lobbying against the change.

The would-be law is named for Lavern Wilkinson, a Brooklyn woman who died in 2013 of a curable form of lung cancer after doctors at Kings County Hospital misdiagnosed her in 2010. Nearly three years prior to her death, Wilkinson had visited the emergency room after experiencing chest pain and a persistent cough. At the time, doctors failed to tell her that the chest x-ray ordered for that visit had shown a 2-cm lung nodule on her right lung. Instead she was sent home with Motrin. Less than two years later, another chest x-ray revealed the undisclosed nodule had spread and she was in the advanced stages of lung cancer.

When Wilkinson, a single mother survived by her daughter who suffers from autism, sought to bring a medical malpractice suit against the hospital, she discovered that the statute of limitations for filing a suit had expired.

Many medical errors are not discovered until years after treatment, and any one of us can find ourselves in a similar situation to Lavern Wilkinson.

What can I do?

I encourage every citizen to contact his or her state senator and tell them that you support changing the statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims in New York.

Send a message

If you would like to call or send a message to your state senator, use this link to find his or her contact information: http://www.nysenate.gov/senators.

Here is a sample message that you can send.

Subject: I support Lavern’s Law

Dear Senator,

I am writing to you in support of Lavern’s Law, which was passed in the Assembly, but failed to receive a vote in the Senate. Lavern’s Law should be enacted to protect all New Yorkers from the tragedy suffered by Ms. Wilkinson and her family. It is appalling that New York is one of very few states that allows the statute of limitations to expire before the victim is even aware of the error. It is time for a change in the statute of limitations for medical malpractice suits. I look to you as my representative in the Senate to support Lavern’s law in order to ensure that what happened to Lavern will never happen again.


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