How will Lavern’s Law change the field of medical malpractice?
Over 60 patients’ rights groups and several other advocacy groups have stepped forward to push New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill known as Lavern’s Law. If signed into law, Lavern’s Law will make it easier for the victims of medical malpractice to obtain legal justice. Under New York’s current medical malpractice laws, the window to file a claim against a negligent physician starts to run when the medical mistake occurred, even if the patient did not realize an error happened. For many victims, especially those with cancer, the two-and-a-half-year window could run before they ever realize anything is wrong. Lavern’s Law aims to correct this injustice for misdiagnosed cancer patients.
Support for Lavern’s Law
Lavern’s Law has had a long road to passage. Despite years of strong opposition by the medical community, the Legislature passed a scaled back version of Lavern’s Law in June. Now, the bill awaits acceptance by the governor.
The version of the bill that was finally passed by the Senate does not include several provisions found in the original. Currently, Lavern’s Law, as written, will apply solely to misdiagnosed cancer patients. It will allow cancer patients two and a half years from discovery of the malpractice to file a malpractice action. It does not contain an earlier included provision to revive cases that are currently time barred.
Lavern’s Law is named after a 41-year-old Brooklyn woman who died from lung cancer that could have been treated after her doctors at Kings County Hospital misdiagnosed her. By the time her family filed suit, the claim was time barred. If signed into law, Lavern’s Law would place New York in line with the majority of other states, as New York is one of just six states without a date of discovery law.
Concerns By Medical Professionals and Others
Despite significant support, Lavern’s Law remains opposed by most of the medical establishment. Opponents to the bill urge that if New York adds a date of discovery provision, it must also make other reforms, like placing caps on awards for pain and suffering and limiting total damages. Medical groups warn that passage of Lavern’s Law without comprehensive reform could result in rising healthcare costs and doctor’s fleeing the state. For now, the governor’s office is reviewing the bill and will soon take official action.