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Statute of limitations amendment does not advance in New York

A proposed monumental law for New York City patients died last week in committee. The bill's sponsor, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, said that once she realized it was not going to get passed by the Senate, she decided to put the bill on hold.

The bill is known as Lavern's Law. It is named after a woman who ended up dying from cancer after doctors at Kings County Hospital failed to tell her about a small mass in her chest. Had they told her, this mass could have been operated on and she would most likely still be alive.

For Lavern Wilkinson, she did not learn about the mistake until she started having problems breathing. This was when another doctor saw the mass and gave her the news she was going to die. She ended up passing away in March.

Before her passing, Lavern could not file a medical malpractice lawsuit due to a New York law that starts the statute of limitations from when the negligence occurred. This meant that between the times the mass should have been discovered and when she found out she was going to die due to the preventable mistake, too much time had already passed.

New York is one of six states where the statute of limitations starts from when the negligence occurred. In all other states the time starts from when a person could have reasonably found out malpractice occurred.

Looking to the future, Weinstein has been trying to get changes made to this law for year. Given the fact that Lavern's Law made it further this year than ever before, she is hopeful for big changes in the 2014 session.

Source: Daily News, "Proposed amendment to state's medical malpractice rules dies in Albany," Heidi Evans, June 25, 2013

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