Appellate Court Rules That Lawsuit Alleging Failure to Diagnose Injury Postoperatively During Post-surgical Office Visit Made the Statute of Limitations Cut

A Georgia Appellate Court has held that a physician who chose not to timely diagnose an injury postoperatively was not the act that began the running of the statute. Instead, the court ruled that the statute began to run from the time of the patient’s later follow-up office visit.

Laura Woodley Danson underwent a laparoscopic hysterectomy that was done by Dr. Dominique Smith, an obstetrician. She experienced symptoms, including stomach pain, after the surgery and complained about this in her postoperative visits with Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith misdiagnosed the symptoms as a bladder infection and said too much gas had been used during her hysterectomy. Danson consulted another physician who diagnosed a kidney obstruction caused by the hysterectomy and an injured bladder.

Danson filed a lawsuit against Dr. Smith claiming that he chose not to correctly diagnose her injuries postoperatively. The defense for Dr. Smith moved to dismiss the case or for summary judgment on the basis that Danson’s medical malpractice claim was filed outside the 2-year statute of limitations for such claims.

Danson’s attorneys successfully amended her complaint, removing the medical malpractice claim and adding claims for fraud and misrepresentation based on Dr. Smith’s continuous statements that Danson’s symptoms resulted from the use of too much gas during the laparoscopy.

The trial judge granted the defense’s motion, concluding that there was no evidence of fraud and that the plaintiff’s complaint had been filed outside the 2-year limitations window. The plaintiff moved for reconsideration, and the trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion regarding the plaintiff’s claim for misdiagnosis of her injuries postoperatively. The court granted the plaintiff’s motion in part.

In affirming, the appellate court found that for independent misdiagnosis claims not tied to an underlying medical malpractice cause of action, the statute of limitations begins to run not at the time of injury but from the time of the alleged misdiagnosis. In this case, the appellate panel found that the plaintiff’s allegations concerned the defendant’s failure to diagnose the cause of her symptoms at the first postoperative visit. Thus, because the lawsuit was filed within two years of that appointment, Danson’s amended complaint, which was accepted by the trial court, was timely filed.

The attorney representing Danson was Nikki Giovanni Bonner.

This Georgia decision certainly carefully considered the issue of when the statute of limitations begins to run in medical malpractice cases.  This application may very well be taken into account in similar Illinois cases.

Smith v. Danson, 780 S.E.2d 481 (Ga. Ct. App. 2015).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice cases, birth injury cases, nursing home abuse cases and catastrophic injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including New Lenox, Long Grove, Algonquin, Antioch, Bannockburn, Barrington, Bellwood, Elmwood Park, Melrose Park, Franklin Park, Calumet City, Alsip, Blue Island, South Holland, Olympia Fields, Bridgeview, Deerfield, Woodridge, Oak Park, Forest Park, Crestwood, Crete and South Chicago Heights, Ill.

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