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NY Medical Malpractice Bill, Lavern’s Law, Again Fails To Pass

A law that would provide sensible rights to New York medical malpractice victims has died after failing to get sufficient support from senators. The bill known as Lavern’s Law didn’t get the support of Senate leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County), prompting the bill’s sponsor to kill it and hope that lawmakers come to their senses in 2014 when it’s presented again.

Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn) is the sponsor of Lavern’s Law, which also failed to get enough support from lawmakers in 2012. Lavern’s Law is named after malpractice victim Lavern Wilkinson, who died in March. Lavern’s death was the result of doctors’ failure to diagnose a node on her lung at Kings County Hospital in 2010.

During the 2010 visit, Lavern had an x-ray that showed the presence of an abnormal node, but her physician and the radiologist missed it. The growth wasn’t discovered until two years later but, by then, cancer had spread throughout her body and there was nothing doctors could do to save her.

Wilkinson wanted to sue Kings County Hospital and staff for their negligence, but her medical malpractice suit was barred by New York’s statute of limitations. According to New York law, Lavern could have reasonably known or discovered the mistake in 2010, so the two-year time limit began running at that time.

Most states have a “date of discovery” statute, which starts the statute of limitations when the patient actually discovers the mistake. Applied to Lavern’s case, she would have been able to bring her claim and presumably prevail before her death. Instead, the failure to diagnose cancer caused her to unnecessarily die and leave behind a 15-year-old autistic daughter – without sufficient financial resources.

If you or a loved one may be the victim of a serious medical mistake, it’s important to contact a lawyer. An experienced New York medical malpractice attorney can investigate and help you make your claim so you can avoid losing your rights, like Lavern.

Source: NY Daily News, “Proposed Amendment To State’s Medical Malpractice Rules Dies In Albany,” Heidi Evans, June 25, 2013

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