Court Rules Minor Malpractice Cases not Subject to Statute of Limitations

Washington’s Supreme Court recently decided that statutes of limitation are not applicable to medical malpractice cases involving minors. The suit centered on Jaryd Schroeder, who was injured from negligent medical care when he was nine years old. At age 18, Schroeder decided to sue the physician for medical malpractice, which he attempted to have barred due to the statute of limitation. Ultimately, Washington’s highest court ruled such a statute violated the Schroeder’s constitutional rights, awarding him a trial.

Our team of medical malpractice attorneys highlights this case to discuss how and when statutes of limitations are used to prevent minors from filing lawsuits later in life. The Washington Supreme Court believes, as do we, that this places an unfair burden on injured children.

Schroeder filed suit against Dr. Stephen Weighall and Columbia Basin Imaging just before he turned 19, for events that transpired ten years prior. When he was nine, Schroader suffered from double vision, nausea, leg weakness, headaches, and dizziness, and went to Columbia Basin Imaging for an MRI. The radiologist, Dr. Weighall, examined the tests and told Schroeder and his family that everything looked normal.

About eight years later, Schroeder underwent another MRI because his symptoms did not subside. These later tests showed that his brain was protruding into his spinal cord, which was causing his debilitating ailments. Less than two years later Schroeder filed suit.

The defendants, Weighall and Columbia Basin Imaging, attempted to have the case barred on basis of the statute of limitations. The initial judge approved and dismissed Schroeder’s case. He then appealed directly to the state’s Supreme Court, claiming the dismissal violated his constitutional right of equal protection for minors.

The Supreme Court voted 7-2 to revive Schroeder’s case. In the majority opinion, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud wrote that statutes of limitation laws placed undue burden on children whose guardians are unwilling or unable to pursue a claim on behalf of the child. She went on to say that numerous other courts have reached similar conclusions, and particularly harm children in foster care, children of teenage parents, and neglected children.

In other words, the statute of limitation laws in this context hurt citizens who most need help, and who are most unable to act for themselves. The decision reached by the state Supreme Court is an important step forward in protecting children. Medical malpractice law reforms are happening throughout the country, and unfortunately, more often than not, laws are redrafted to protect the financial interests of doctors and hospitals.

Medical malpractice attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on these types of cases, which are critically important to improving the lives and wellbeing of patients. If you or a loved one was seriously injured or killed by a negligent physician or hospital system, contact our firm immediately for a free consultation. You may be entitled to significant compensation for the harm done to you.

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