Foreign Objects Get Time Extensions


According to New York State law, patients that have been injured by negligent medical professionals have two and a half years from the time injured to commence a suit against the person who committed the negligence.  Whether or not the patient knows about the wrong doing, time will start to tick.

Experienced medical malpractice attorneys are nonetheless aware of some exceptions.  There is the continuous treatment exception.  This exception will allow the statute of limitations to be tolled during the period of time that the patient received continuous care traced back to the doctor’s negligent act.  For example, let’s say that a patient had hip replacement surgery and the surgeon committed medical malpractice during the surgery.  The surgeon scheduled the patient for follow up appointments throughout several months after the surgery.  The statute of limitations clock would not begin to tick until the last appointment occurred.

Another exception exists for a unique category of patient.  We refer to those patients having foreign objects unintentionally left inside their bodies during the course of a medical procedure.  This exception has existed for almost forty years and it exists for good reason.

The reason for the exception is that some object simply will not be detected for years after they were left inside of the patient.  The limitations period begins at the moment when negligence occurs and since the object might not be discovered for several years, the limitations period will have run its course before the patient even noticed that he or she had been injured.

Because the patient didn’t notice for such a long time does not in any way mean that the injury is minor.  Anything left inside the patient by mistake must be removed.  This will require another operation which means more pain, adverse risks to surgery, lost time from work, additional medical expenses, etc.

What exactly is a “foreign object”?   It is anything unintentionally left inside the patient; surgical sponges, gauze, needles, clamps, medical gloves, and the like.  Compare this to screws and plates intentionally left inside the patient as part of the surgery and necessary to correct the patient’s ill condition; these are not foreign objects even though they are not naturally found in a person’s body.

So then, what is the statute of limitations for foreign object medical malpractice cases?  Civil litigation must be commenced against the offending physician within one year from the date the object was discovered, or one year from the date that the patient learned facts that would have led a reasonable patient to discover the object.  This could be five years from the moment when the object left and the patient would not have to fear the two and a half year limitations period.

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