State Court Adopts Continuing Course of Treatment Doctrine, Potentially Extending Statute of Limitations in Some Medical Malpractice Cases

Earlier this month, a Massachusetts court issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case adopting the continuing course of treatment doctrine. The continuing course of treatment doctrine acts to toll the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases while the defendant is still providing medical care for the plaintiff. Thus, if the doctrine is applied, only once the defendant stops providing medical care will the statute of limitations begin. In the case, Parr v. Rosenthal, the court ultimately adopted the doctrine but declined to apply it in the specific facts presented in the plaintiffs’ case.

HourglassThe Facts

The plaintiffs’ son was born with an unexplained lump on the back of his leg. After several years of unsuccessful diagnosis attempts, the plaintiffs found a group of doctors who were able to identify the lump as a desmoid tumor. While the tumor was identified, none of the doctors treating the boy was familiar with how to treat a desmoid tumor. The treating physicians referred the parents to the defendant, who was another doctor in the group who had not yet met with their son. After discussing the procedure with the boy’s parents, it was agreed that the defendant would perform an emerging procedure called radio frequency ablation.

Unfortunately, the boy was badly burned by the defendant during the procedure, and the procedure could not be completed. The original group of doctors continued to care for the boy, but the defendant provided no follow-up care. Eventually, the boy’s leg needed to be amputated due to the worsening condition of the burn. Several years later, the plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against the defendant, naming only him and none of the doctors in his practice group.

The plaintiffs argued that the court should adopt and apply the continuing course of conduct doctrine to their case, which was technically past the statute of limitations. However, they argued that if the court applied the doctrine, their lawsuit would be timely because the doctors in the defendant’s practice group continued to care for their son for several years after the alleged act of negligence. Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, the court determined that it would adopt the doctrine but that it would not help the plaintiffs under these facts because the defendant had not been involved with any of the follow-up treatment. In other words, even if the doctrine was applied, since the statute of limitations began when the defendant himself – rather than his cohorts – ceased treatment, the case was still untimely.

The Continuing Course of Treatment Doctrine in Illinois

Illinois courts have routinely declined to adopt a pure version of the continuing course of treatment rule and enforced a strict four-year statute of repose. This means that, barring fraudulent concealment, a medical malpractice action must be brought within four years of the allegedly negligent act. However, Illinois courts have recognized the “continuing course of negligent treatment” doctrine. This doctrine is similar to that discussed in the case above, but it requires the plaintiff to prove that the defendant’s continued care was negligent. This places a higher burden on plaintiffs but still may make it possible to toll the statute of limitations in a medical malpractice case under some situations.

Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of what you believe to be medical malpractice, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, it is extremely important that you act quickly to preserve any right to recovery you may have. The skilled medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys at Moll Law Group have decades of experience seeking justice on behalf of their injured clients, and we would be happy to discuss your case with you free of charge. Call 312-462-1700 today to set up a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney.

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