Lavern’s Law Dies In Committee

New York lawmakers had high hopes for “Lavern’s Law,” which would have amended the state’s current statute of limitations for medical malpractice victims. Unfortunately, according to a recent report in the NY Daily News, the law died in committee at the end of June 2013.

That means that patients who are injured due to medical negligence will have only 15 months after an event in a city hospital to file a NY malpractice lawsuit, and 2.5 years after an event in a private hospital. Because of these New York medical malpractice laws, victims who believe a mistake was made during their care should contact a personal injury attorney right away.

Lavern’s law would have changed New York medical malpractice laws

Lavern Wilkinson was a Brooklyn mom who experienced chest pain on February 2, 2010. She went to Kings County Hospital where doctors took chest X-rays and did an EKG. A radiologist noted a small mass or nodule on her right lung, but the finding was never communicated to Lavern. Doctors told her the tests were normal, and advised her to take painkillers.

The symptoms didn’t go away, however. A little over two years later, in May 2012, Lavern went back to the hospital emergency room, complaining of wheezing and shortness of breath. This time, the X-ray revealed that the nodule had doubled in size. Lavern was told she had Stage 4 lung cancer. Since it had already spread to both lungs, as well as to the liver, brain, and spine, she was told that it was terminal.

Worse, her doctor informed her that the X-ray had shown the nodule two years earlier, when the disease would have been curable.

Too late for a NY malpractice lawsuit

A 41-year-old single mother of an autistic child, Lavern wanted to beat her cancer so she could take care of her daughter. Unfortunately, she passed away in March 2013. She had hoped to recover compensation for the hospital’s mistake, to better provide for her daughter. Because of New York’s 15-month statute of limitations on city hospitals, however, she was unable to bring a claim in state court, since the actual error had occurred over two years before.

Other states have “date of discovery” rules that would have allowed the statute of limitations to begin in 2012, when Lavern discovered the error. As news of her tragic story hit the airwaves, New York lawmakers hoped to change things for other New York victims by passing “Lavern’s Law.”

New York medical malpractice laws remain the same

The law would have eased restrictions in medical malpractice cases, and introduced a date of discovery that would have given individuals like Lavern more time to file claims. Many lawmakers supported it. Others, however, were concerned that if such a law were passed, medical malpractice insurance rates would soar. Hospital and insurance industries opposed it.

At the end of June 2013, the bill lacked the support of state senate leader Dean Skelos, so it died in committee. Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn) put the bill on hold once it was clear it had no chance in the Senate.

Until lawmakers can succeed at making a change in New York medical malpractice laws, victims of hospital or doctor negligence need to be vigilant about their own health, and seek legal representation quickly if they believe a mistake has been made. Resources

  1. NY Daily News, Proposed amendment to state’s medical malpractice rules dies in Albany,
  2. NY Daily News, Lavern Wilkinson, victim of medical malpractice, dies of the cancer that could have been treated,
  3. NY Daily News, Lavern Wilkinson’s horrific tale of mistreatment at Kings County Hospital spurs Daily News readers to offer donations and prayers,
  4. Lavern Wilkinson Accepts $625,000 Settlement After Brooklyn Doctors Diagnose Lung Cancer As Asthma,