NY Legislature Passes ‘Lavern’s Law’

How will Lavern’s Law help malpractice victims?

A bill that seeks to give medical malpractice victims more time to bring an action has finally been approved by the Legislature. The bill, known as Lavern’s Law, calls for the timeline for bringing a medical malpractice case to start when the error is discovered by the patient, rather than when the mistake happened, as it stands under current law. This is the third time Lavern’s Law has reached the Senate. While supporters are rejoicing in its passage, others lament that a crucial piece of the law was omitted, which will mean that the family of the woman for which the law is named will find no relief—Lavern Wilkinson.

Lavern Wilkinson’s Misdiagnosis

Lavern Wilkinson was a single mother of two who lived in Brooklyn. Wilkinson made a trip to the Kings County Hospital in 2010 after she started experiencing chest pain. A radiologist noted a suspicious mass on her chest x-ray, but did not tell Wilkinson and took no further steps. Two years later, Wilkinson returned to the hospital and was diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread throughout her body. She passed away from a cancer that could have been successfully treated with a proper diagnosis in 2010. Wilkinson’s family were distressed to learn that they could not seek justice for Wilkinson’s misdiagnosis due to the statute of limitations which started in 2010, rather than when they learned of the error in 2012.

Lavern’s Law originally contained a one year window to revive medical malpractice cases that are time barred under the current law. However, the bill that was passed by the Senate and Assembly does not contain this provision. Even further, the pared down bill does not apply to all medical malpractice victims. Under the revised Lavern’s Law, a cancer victim who was misdiagnosed will have two and a half years from the date of discovery to bring a medical malpractice action. If more than seven years have passed, the victim will be barred from suing.

Now, New Yorkers wait to see whether Governor Cuomo will sign the bill into law. Despite some disappointment in edits made to the bill, it is still believed Lavern’s Law will offer much needed relief to medical malpractice victims across the state.