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New York Legislature Rejects Law That Would Assist Medical Malpractice Victims

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Friday, September 4, 2015
By Louis Grandelli

Despite strong support from the New York Assembly, State Senate, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, this past summer Senate majority leader John. J. Flanagan rejected a bill, Lavern’s Law, that would have afforded many medical malpractice victims their opportunity to bring a cause of action.

New York law gives medical malpractice victims two and a half years from the date of the medical mistake to bring suit. The majority standard in 44 states provides a victim the two and a half years from the time the mistake was actually discovered or should have been discovered.

Lavern’s Law, named after Lavern Wilkinson, a Brooklyn woman whose doctors failed to inform her of a cancerous mass on her X-ray three years before her death, would have adopted the more lenient majority standard in New York. The law would afford victims like Ms. Wilkinson a more fair opportunity to have their day in court.

The rejection of Lavern’s Law reflects a trend of inadequate measures to protect victims of medical malpractice and improve hospital safety. Despite only a small number of cases falling outside of the statute of limitations under circumstances like Ms. Wilkinson’s, the bill received strong opposition from the hospital and health care lobby over a concern over an increase in medical malpractice claims.

Additionally, claims which are brought rarely result in any sort of sanction for physicians. Only about 1 percent of medical errors result in a claim and of those claims brought only a small percentage result in disciplinary action against doctors.

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