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New York widens window for missed diagnosis suits

Over the strong objections of doctors and hospitals, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law a measure that extends the statute of limitations for certain types of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Dubbed Lavern’s Law, the bill gives patients two and a half years in which to file a malpractice claim after they learn of a missed diagnosis of cancer. The measure is named after a woman who died in 2013 after doctors did not detect that she had lung cancer.

The previous law had a similar two-and-a-half-year window, but the timeframe began when a cancer treatment took place. Trial lawyers and others had argued that the limit prevented some people from filing lawsuits.

Physician groups and hospitals pointed out that the law will lead to medical malpractice insurance rate hikes — costs that will inevitably be passed on to consumers. They also said the measure might compel health care professionals to avoid cancer screenings for fear that will be sued for malpractice years later.

The founder of the Medical Society of the State of New York said, “It is shocking that at a time when New York hospitals and doctors continue to have the highest liability costs in the country, and we have been labeled the worst state to be a doctor, a law has been enacted to increase lawsuits and costs even further.”

The Greater New York Hospital Association told member hospitals that it would work to improve Lavern’s Law and reduce “sky-high medical liability costs.”

Physicians and others facing the prospect of a medical malpractice claim require comprehensive representation by a law firm with a record of accomplishment in these matters.