New York State enacted Lavern’s Law on January 31, 2018. This new law extends the amount of time a patient has to file a medical malpractice lawsuit for a missed cancer diagnosis.
Lavern’s Law, named after a Brooklyn woman named Lavern Wilkinson, does two meaningful things:
- It extends the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice claim for cancer patients from the current 15 months to 30 months, and
- The statute of limitations now begins from the time when a cancer patient becomes aware of a misdiagnosis, rather than from when the actual error was made.
Lavern Wilkinson was X-rayed in 2010 but told she was fine. Three years later, doctors looking at the same X-ray realized she had lung cancer. If caught in 2010, it could have been treated effectively, but in the three years that passed it had spread to her other organs. Lavern died in 2013 at the age of 41. She had been unable to bring a malpractice claim against the hospital that failed to diagnose her cancer because the 15-month statute of limitations had passed since the mistake was made.
How Does the Statute of Limitations Work for Malpractice?
Before Lavern’s Law passed in New York, a patient had only 15 months to file a medical malpractice claim from the date when the error occurred. Even if the patient only found out about the error two years after it happened, she had no ability to file a claim after 15 months have passed. Now, cancer patients have 30 months to file a claim after the mistake is detected.
WRSH’s own Brielle C. Goldfaden was one of many voices calling for a change to the current statute of limitations. She wrote an article entitled Justice for Women Cancer Patients for the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, urging Governor Cuomo to sign Lavern’s Law. “It is a major victory for the citizens of New York and a step in the right direction toward modernizing New York law.”
What Does This Mean for Cancer Patients?
This law has obvious benefits for cancer patients who have suffered from a misdiagnosis, as it allows them to file a malpractice claim even if the error is discovered long after the mistake occurred. More importantly, however, it forces medical professionals to be more careful and pushes for correct diagnoses the first time. Since early detection is so important in cancer treatment, this type of law will hopefully save many lives.
If you or a loved one has suffered due to a cancer misdiagnosis, please call us at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, right now at (212) 986-7353.
Originally published October 26, 2017; updated September 12, 2018