As every attorney knows, details are extremely important in a court of law. Legal procedures must be followed when pursuing a case, and they must be followed to the letter. This isn’t due to overregulation – it’s a matter of constitutional rights. By following due process, attorneys and judges ensure that neither the plaintiff’s nor the defendant’s rights are violated during the court proceedings.
This is small comfort, however, when a seemingly insignificant or unfair technicality results in the dismissal of a case. This sort of technicality occurred recently in another state, in which a wrongful death medical malpractice case was dismissed before its conclusion.
The case revolved around a man who had died of undiagnosed prostate cancer. The man had visited his doctor in 2001, complaining of various cancer-related symptoms. His doctor sent him to a urologist, who did a blood test and found danger signs for prostate cancer. A biopsy, however, turned up negative. The man failed to return to the urologist for a second test. Though he continued to visit his regular doctor, no further examinations for prostate cancer were undertaken.
Three years later, the proper diagnosis was finally made. A year later, the man died of prostate cancer. Before his death, however, he sued for medical malpractice, claiming that his doctors should have known earlier that he had prostate cancer. He stated that if it had been diagnosed when he first went in for treatment, his chances of survival would have been higher.
The wrongful death proceedings lasted for over a year. At one point, however, an expert for the plaintiff stated that the man would only have had a chance at survival if he had been correctly diagnosed before 2001. Since the case was not filed until 2006, the plaintiff was found to have overstepped the three-year statute of limitations, which began counting from the day the alleged misdiagnosis occurred (2001) rather than the year it was discovered (2004).
Wins and losses on technicalities can be difficult to accept, as they sometimes leave one feeling that justice may not have been served. What this case shows, then, is evidence of the utmost care that must be taken when one moves forward with a medical malpractice claim.
The Clinical Advisor, “Wrongful death case dismissed” Ann W. Latner, Sep. 18, 2013