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Medical Negligence Claim Rejected for Timely Filing Details

TimelyWhen you have been injured due to a preventable medical error or negligence by a medical professional, it is understandable that you would wish to recover compensation for your injuries. Doing so, however, can be quite complex, as there are many things for you to consider along the way. One of the most important elements is filing your claim in compliance with the statute of limitations provided by California law. A recent example from the Bay Area demonstrates that ignorance of the law is not an excuse that the court will recognize for failing to file on time.

What the Law Says

In the state of California, a victim of medical malpractice must initiate legal action within one year of the date that he or she discovered or reasonably should have discovered the injury in question. Action must also be initiated within three years from the date of the incident, regardless of when it was discovered, but one year is the most commonly used standard. According to the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 364, the one-year limit can be extended by up to 90 days if the victim notifies the medical professional in writing of his or her intent to sue within 90 days of the date on which the one-year limit would expire.

Unintended Consequences

Last month, a California appeals court upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a medical negligence claim based on timely filing. The claimant in that case had allegedly been injured when she fell in the hospital the day after giving birth to her child in October 2013. Four months after her injury, the woman wrote a letter to the hospital explaining her injuries and demanding payment with 20 days. Her letter said that she would pursue legal action if the hospital did not comply.

Court documents indicate that the hospital received her letter, conducted an investigation, and found no wrongdoing. Thus, the facility refused to send the woman any payment. The woman hired an attorney who sent the hospital a notice of intent to sue on October 27, 2014, just two days shy of one year from the date of the woman’s fall. When the hospital once again refused to pay, the plaintiff filed suit on January 23, 2015.

The trial court granted a summary judgment in favor of the hospital ruling that the plaintiff’s action was time-barred, as it was filed more than one year after the woman discovered her injuries. The court also held that the woman’s letter constituted a notice of intent to sue. Because of when it was sent, however, the notice did not extend the statute of limitations. In turn, the attorney’s letter from October 2014 was held to be extraneous and also did not extend the timely filing deadline.

The plaintiff argued that she was unaware of the law and did not mean for her letter to be a notice of intent to sue as described in the law. The court rejected this argument based on several factors. First, the letter clearly indicated her intent to use legal action if the hospital did not pay her. Second, and most importantly, the law applies regardless of a person’s knowledge of it or his or her intent.

The appeals court upheld the trial court’s decisions on all elements of the case and ordered the plaintiffs to pay the hospital's court costs.

Attention to Detail

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of medical negligence, it is crucial to work with an attorney who can help you remain in full compliance with the law. Contact an experienced San Jose medical malpractice attorney and get the help you need. Call (408) 289-1417 for a free consultation at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. today.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.