Governor Cuomo Announces Lavern’s Law Agreement For Cancer Lawsuits

Andrew Cuomo by Pat Arnow cropped

Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders in the state of New York have come to an agreement about Lavern’s Law, a rule which dictates the guidelines for how long cancer patients have to initiate malpractice suits against medical personnel for failing to detect cancer.

The new agreement extends the period within which patients can sue from 15 months to 30 months (two and a half years) after the misdiagnosis or the negligence that allowed the cancer to take hold in the patient’s body, or after the patients learn of it. Reforms will also give would-be plaintiffs a generous seven years to discover the error.

The legislation is named after Lavern Wilkinson, who passed away nearly five years ago in Brooklyn at age 41, ravaged by lung cancer overlooked in 2010 by a city public hospital she had visited for chest pains. She would have been able to sue and recover substantial damages, enough to leave to her severely disabled young daughter — but she’d just barely missed the arbitrarily cruel deadline of 15 months after a mistake.

“No one should have to go through what Lavern Wilkinson and her family did, and this agreement will help protect cancer patients and their loved ones, while also addressing concerns from the medical field,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this reform, we will help make New York a healthier, fairer state for all.”

The legislation does not protect those who have already missed their deadline according to current law, and the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York opposed the legislation, saying it “is certain to only make matters worse and further increase the inflated cost of medical liability insurance for doctors and hospitals.”

“Rather than make it easier for personal injury trial lawyers to file lawsuits, Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature must prioritize a complete overhaul of the medical liability system and put together a plan that works for patients, doctors, and hospitals alike,” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the nonprofit group.

The Governor, however was commended by many for his act that protects so many New Yorkers who suffer from cancer. Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan said, “This agreement ensures that we deliver a responsible new law that better protects patients and their families when a misdiagnosis occurs that prevents an individual from beginning a timely treatment to fight and beat cancer. I thank the Governor and our partners in the Assembly for helping us get to the finish line on this important new measure.”

Kenneth E. Raske, President of the Greater New York Hospital Association, added, “I would like to thank the Governor for his hard work and his serious attempt to find balance and equity for all parties. While this is a challenging issue given the medical liability environment in New York, the health care community is dedicated to fairness for all consumers. I applaud the Governor for striking a balance that will truly help New Yorkers.”