S.C. Court of Appeals Rules Mental Incompetence Not Grounds For Tolling In Medical Malpractice Suit

In February 2014, the South Carolina Court of Appeals in February 2014 affirmed summary judgment in a medical malpractice case, and held that the tolling for minors in medical malpractice claims does not apply to the mentally incompetent.  The court held that mental incompetence does not toll the statute of limitations in medical malpractice claims, (unlike the statutory tolling period for minors) and because the suit was filed six (6) years after the defendant’s alleged acts of negligence, the Plaintiff’s claim was time barred.

The ruling gives us an opportunity to discuss the statute of limitations in medical malpractice claims. Generally, medical malpractice claims must be filed within three years from the date of the occurrence, or the date when the occurrence should have been discovered, but in no case more than six years from the date of the occurrence. S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-545.  However, a medical malpractice claim that alleges negligence which causes death must be filed within three years the claimant’s death, as the wrongful death statute controls.

There is a tolling statute for minors, which acts to pause the statute of limitations in medical malpractice claims. S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-545(A). Under the tolling statute, if the injured party is a minor (under 18) when the alleged act of medical malpractice occurred, the time period to file suit may be tolled no more than one year after reaching the age of majority, and cannot be tolled greater than seven years after the alleged act of malpractice occurred.

The statute of limitations is a very barrier to filing suit.  Each case presents unique issues that may effect which limitations statute might govern your claim.  If you believe that you may have a legal claim I strongly urge you to contact an attorney that will defend your interests, and protect your right to bring suit.  Should you have any questions about this article, or medical malpractice claim, please feel free to contact me for a no-cost consultation.  

 

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