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Pennsylvania Court Deems Statute of Repose in Medical Malpractice Cases Unconstitutional

Generally, many states allow for the tolling of the statutes of limitations in medical malpractice cases under certain circumstances, such as when the patient’s harm is not discovered until a later date. Many states also have a statute of repose, which limits an injured patient’s right to recover under a medical malpractice claim, regardless of when the harm was discovered. In a case in which the plaintiff did not discover her harm until eleven years after her surgery, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recently deemed the Pennsylvania statute of repose applying to medical malpractice claims to be unconstitutional. If you suffered harm due to a doctor’s negligence, you should speak to an attorney to discuss your rights. The Maryland medical malpractice attorneys of the Arfaa Law Group regularly assist injured parties in cases in Maryland and Pennsylvania, as well as other states.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff suffered from a genetic condition that caused a diminished ability of her liver to develop a protein that is necessary to protect the lungs. To treat the condition, she underwent a liver transplant in 2003. The transplant was intended to cure the plaintiff of the condition. In 2015, however, testing indicated the plaintiff still suffered from the genetic condition. As such, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against her treating providers and the hospital where the transplant was performed. The defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the seven-year statute of repose under the MCARE Act (the Act) barred the plaintiff’s claim. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the trial court ruling. The plaintiff then appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Constitutionality of the Pennsylvania Statute of Repose

The Pennsylvania Constitution states, in part, that when a person sustains a legal injury, he or she shall have access to the courts and the right to a remedy. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania noted that case law had established that the remedies clause did not establish a fundamental right to a remedy, but that the right to a remedy was nonetheless a significant right.

As such, as the Act impinged on a person’s right to seek a remedy, the court found that it must apply immediate scrutiny to determine if the statute of repose set forth by the Act largely related to meeting an important government interest. The court noted that while the government had an interest in curtailing the cost of malpractice insurance, the statute of repose set forth in the Act was not significantly related to the achievement of that goal. Thus, the court found that the Act’s statute of repose was unconstitutional and reversed the lower court’s ruling.

Consult a Seasoned Medical Malpractice Attorney

When a doctor fails to provide the treatment you need, it can have devastating results. If you sustained damages due to a doctor’s inadequate care, you should consult a seasoned medical malpractice attorney to discuss your right to pursue damages. The skillful attorneys of Arfaa Law Group have experience seeking compensation on behalf of their clients in the Maryland and Pennsylvania courts, as well as courts in other nearby states. We can be reached through our online form or at (410) 889-1850 to set up a free and confidential consultation.