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Court: patient can sue for failure to diagnose cancer

Readers in Houston, Texas, might be interested to know that an appeals court in another state recently overturned a decision by a county judge who had dismissed a medical malpractice lawsuit. A woman who, for five years, was not told that she had a cancerous kidney can now sue both the doctor and the clinic for her delayed diagnosis.

In 2003, the clinic ran a test on the woman, which showed evidence of a cancerous lesion on one of her kidneys, but it was not reported to her. In 2008, another test showed the lesion had grown, forcing the removal of one of the woman's kidneys.

According to the 2-1 ruling, the woman maintaining a functioning kidney doesn't preclude her right to sue.

This news story brings up an important consideration in medical malpractice claims: time limits. Many state laws have statute of limitations on them for filing malpractice suits. If a patient fails to file a claim within the time period specified in the statute of limitations, the patient may be forever barred from bringing the claim, even if it is meritorious.

Knowing when the statute of limitations begins to run can be a complicated task, as different courts take different views, depending on the wording in the statutes. As a person can see, it is important for patients to understand the statute of limitations in their state if they believe they have a medical malpractice claim.

While the appeals court decision above doesn't have jurisdiction over cases in Houston, the case could be instructive to courts that do.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Michigan Woman Can Sue Over Delay in Learning of Cancer," Sept. 14, 2012

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