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Bill to ease NY’s time limits on malpractice suits withdrawn

A proposed law that would have eased the statute of limitations on medical malpractice lawsuits has died in the New York State Assembly. The proposed legislation was known as Lavern’s Law, after a Brooklyn woman who died of lung cancer this year.

The saga of the bill’s namesake began in 2010 when doctors at Kings Hospital allegedly discovered a mass on a chest x-ray, but failed to tell her about it. When she started having serious breathing problems, another Kings County doctor discovered what had happened. However, by then, it was too late under New York law for her to sue for the medical mistake. She developed cancer that spread to both lungs, and died earlier this year at the age of 41. She is survived by a 15-year-old autistic daughter.

Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein of Brooklyn, who sponsored Lavern’s Law, withdrew it even though it had the backing of others in the Assembly, because she learned that it would not have the support of State Senate leader Dean Skelos. Weinstein, a long-time campaigner against New York’s medical malpractice statute of limitations, said that when she saw that the bill would not be taken up by the State Senate, she decided it would be better to withdraw it, and try again in the next session. She says she did not want to subject the bill to debate in the Assembly only to see it go nowhere in the Senate.

Despite the setback, the bill made it further in this past legislative term than it has previously. New York State Trial Lawyers Association President Robert Danzi is optimistic that it will eventually succeed. While attorneys have supported the change in the law, it has been challenged by hospitals and physicians who have argued that it would cause malpractice insurance rates to skyrocket.

Attorneys in New York who handle medical malpractice lawsuits will be watching the progress of Lavern’s Law, and will be lobbying legislators to support it. Even though in this case, the victim did not learn about the error until the statute of limitations had passed, it shows why it is essential that as soon as someone has discovered that a medical error has been made, it may be crucial to contact an attorney experienced in medical malpractice law.

New York Daily News, “Proposed amendment to state’s medical malpractice rules dies in Albany” Heidi Evans, Jun. 25, 2013

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