“Continuing Course of Treatment” Doctrine May Extend Statute of Limitations for Some Medical Malpractice Plaintiffs

Earlier this month, one state’s appellate court discussed and adopted the “continuing course of treatment” doctrine in the context of a medical malpractice case. In the case, Parr v. Rosenthal, the court determined that it would adopt the doctrine, but it held that the specifics of the case at issue prevented the doctrine from being applied to extend the statute of limitations.

Parr v. Rosenthal:  The Facts

The plaintiffs were the parents of a young boy who was treated for a rare desmoid tumor by the defendant. At birth, their son had a large bump behind his right calf. For several years, the bump was undiagnosed, but eventually a team of doctors diagnosed the bump as a desmoid tumor.

The defendant was among the practice group of doctors treating the boy, but he was not initially involved. After diagnosing the boy, the treating doctors referred the parents to the defendant, who was a pioneer in the use of radio frequency ablation to treat tumors. However, the defendant had never used the technique on a desmoid tumor. After discussing the procedure with the plaintiffs, it was agreed that the defendant would perform the procedure on their son.

Unfortunately, there was a complication during the procedure, the boy’s skin was badly burned, and the procedure could not be completed. The defendant was not involved in any of the follow-up treatment. However, after several years of treatment, the boy’s leg had to be amputated. Several years later, the plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant. Notably, the case did not name the entire team of doctors but only the defendant.

The defendant responded to the charges by asking the court to dismiss the case as untimely. The defendant argued that the three-year statute of limitations had passed after he provided treatment to their son. The plaintiffs responded that their son was under the continued treatment of the defendant and his cohorts, and therefore the court should adopt the “continuing course of treatment” doctrine, extending the statute of limitations. When applied by a court, the doctrine delays the triggering of the statute of limitations when the plaintiff is under the continued care of the defendant doctor. This means that the statute does not begin to run until the defendant stops providing care to the patient.

Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, the court determined that the defendant did not perform any follow-up treatment, and even if the doctrine was applied, it would not help them. The court reasoned that the “continuing course of treatment” doctrine applies only to the individual doctor who is named as a defendant, rather than the entire team of doctors working with the defendant.

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. Of course, strict adherence to the statute of limitations is critical. However, there may be mechanisms that can be used to extend the statute of limitations, depending on the circumstances of your case. To learn more about medical malpractice cases and the applicable statutes of limitations, call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated Indiana personal injury attorney.

Related Posts:

Appellate Court Upholds $3.75 Million Medical Malpractice Verdict Stemming from Improperly Sanitized Medical Equipment, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, September 6, 2016

Court Broadly Interprets Good Samaritan Law to Include Non-Medical Professionals Who Provide Any Kind of Emergency Treatment, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, September 20, 2016

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