Continuing Course of Treatment Doctrine May Extend Statute of Limitations in Some Maryland and Washington, D.C. Medical Malpractice Cases

All medical malpractice lawsuits must be brought within a certain amount of time. This is generally known as the statute of limitations. In most cases, if a plaintiff files a case after the statute of limitations expires, the court must dismiss the case. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule that may allow a plaintiff to file a medical malpractice lawsuit after the applicable statute of limitations has technically run out.

DoctorThe Continuing Course of Treatment Doctrine

In both Maryland and Washington, D.C., plaintiffs who allege medical malpractice against a doctor must bring that lawsuit within a certain number of years from the date of the injury or the date that they discovered the injury. However, if the same doctor continues to provide treatment for the same condition, the statute of limitations may not begin to run until that treatment stops. A recent example of the continuing course of treatment doctrine arose in the case of Parr v. Rosenthal.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs’ son was born with a large bump on the back side of his calf. It took a few years to diagnose, but it was eventually determined in 2003 that the bump was a desmoid tumor, which is a rare but benign tumor that can grow to such a size that it may impair bodily function. In fact, the tumor did begin to alter the boy’s gait, and the parents discussed the removal of the tumor with the team of doctors treating their son.

The defendant was a radiologist on the team of doctors who had pioneered the use of radio frequency ablation for the treatment of tumors, but he had never used the method on a desmoid tumor. Despite that fact, he was confident he could help the plaintiffs’ son, and everyone agreed that the defendant would perform the surgery. However, during the procedure, the boy’s skin became badly burned, and the procedure had to be canceled. As a result of the complication during the procedure, the boy’s leg had to be amputated above the knee in 2006. The defendant did not perform any additional treatment on the plaintiffs’ son after 2005, but other doctors on the team continued to treat him.

Eventually, in 2009, the plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice case against the defendant. The defendant claimed that the case was filed too late, since the relevant statute of limitations was three years, and the last time the defendant had treated their son was in 2005. The plaintiffs argued that the team of doctors treating their son continued to do so until 2006, meaning that the case was properly filed if the continuing course of treatment doctrine was applied.

The court, however, disagreed. The court noted that the continuing course of treatment doctrine does act to toll the statute of limitations, but only for the time period when the defendant is treating the patient. Here, the court explained, the defendant only performed the one procedure on the boy and then did not provide any other treatment. The court held that the fact that other doctors on the team continued to provide treatment for the same condition did not continue to delay the statute of limitations.

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 through a medical malpractice lawsuit. The skilled personal injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience handling all kinds of cases on behalf of their injured clients, and we know what it takes to be successful in courts throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up your free consultation.

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