Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Mississippi dismissed a case brought by the husband of a woman who died while in the care of the defendant because the plaintiff re-filed the case after the applicable statute of limitations had expired. In the case, Thornhill v. Ingram, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s failure to diagnose and treat his wife led to her early death. Accordingly, he filed suit against several of the treating medical professionals, as well as the facility where his wife was cared for.
However, although the case had been filed shortly after the passing of his wife, the plaintiff did not make appreciable efforts to bring the case to trial. Eight years later, the defendant asked the court to dismiss the case for lack of prosecution.
After considering both sides, the trial court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the case without prejudice. This meant that the plaintiff would be able to re-file the case if and when he chose to do so.
The Plaintiff Re-Files After the Applicable Statute of Limitations
The plaintiff did indeed re-file the case a few months after the dismissal of the case. However, in response to that filing, the defendant asked the court to dismiss the case again. This time, it was because the re-filing of the case was after the applicable statute of limitations governing wrongful death actions based on the theory of medical malpractice.
The trial judge determined that the period when the case was open tolled the statute of limitations, and therefore the plaintiff’s time should be extended. The defendant, citing a recent case decided by the state’s supreme court, disagreed and appealed to a higher court.
The Supreme Court’s Decision
The Supreme Court of Mississippi determined that, although the case was open for that period of eight years, since it was dismissed for failure to prosecute, the statute of limitations should not be tolled. The court looked to the recently decided case cited by the defendant and agreed that the facts here were analogous enough to warrant the same result. Essentially, the court’s opinion was that allowing a plaintiff to re-file after a delay caused by a failure to prosecute could lead to an abuse of the system in which cases may not be decided for decades after the alleged negligence occurred. This, the court determined, was an unacceptable risk. Because of the court’s ruling, the plaintiff will not have an opportunity to have his case heard.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Medical Malpractice Incident?
If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of a doctor’s medical negligence, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. In Indiana, the general rule is that a medical malpractice plaintiff has two years to bring a lawsuit. This two-year period begins when the medical treatment was provided or when it should have been provided, in cases of an alleged omission. To learn more about Indiana medical malpractice cases, call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated and experienced Indiana medical malpractice attorney.
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