Massachusetts Court Adopts Continuing Treatment Theory in Medical Malpractice Cases

child in hospitalIn Parr v. Rosenthal, the plaintiff filed suit against his physician after a radio frequency ablation (RFA) procedure on the plaintiff’s minor son’s leg. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the procedure resulted in severe burning of the child’s leg, ultimately requiring amputation of the limb.

After a trial on the matter, the jury concluded that the plaintiff failed to file his action on behalf of his son within Massachusetts’ three-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. As a result, the jury did not discuss whether or not the defendant doctor had treated the son negligently. The plaintiff appealed. According to the plaintiff, the trial court failed to instruct the jury regarding the “continuing treatment doctrine.”

According to the plaintiff, the trial court failed to instruct the jury regarding the “continuing treatment doctrine.” In reviewing this contention, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court first noted that this doctrine had not before been recognized in Massachusetts. The appellate court took the occasion to expressly recognize the doctrine and applied it to the plaintiff’s claim. This doctrine states that in a medical malpractice case, the statute of limitations does not start to run while the plaintiff and his or her doctor continue their relationship, and the doctor continues to render medical treatment to the plaintiff for the same condition or a related condition.

The appellate court also specified that the continuing treatment exception will cease at the time the patient learns that his or her injury was a result of the defendant’s negligence. Additionally, after the defendant doctor ceases to treat the plaintiff for the same or a related condition, the continuing treatment doctrine will expire.

Applied to the present case, the appellate court first recited a thorough overview of the facts leading up to the minor son’s treatment and when the plaintiff first learned that the defendant’s allegedly negligent treatment may have been the ultimate cause of the child’s amputation. The court distinguished the facts of this case, based on the plaintiff’s argument that the defendant should be held responsible because he at one time was part of a “treatment team” responsible for his minor son’s care. In circumstances like this, the court identified a risk that a patient would feel an unreasonable risk of compromising any continuing care that the plaintiff was receiving from remaining members of the treatment team who are still actively treating the patient. Also, the court stated that allowing a plaintiff to use the continued treatment doctrine based on a treatment team theory may result in the doctrine creating an exception that swallows the statute of limitations rule.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries due to a medical professional’s lack of appropriate care, you may be entitled to compensation. Medical malpractice cases in Massachusetts are very complex and often require expert witnesses to testify about the nuanced and intricate details of the defendant’s treatment plan. At the Law Offices of John S. Moffa, we provide each client with the dedicated, personalized, and compassionate legal counsel that they deserve. We understand how painful this experience may be for your family and you, both physically and emotionally. To schedule your free consultation, contact us now at 1-800-446-4485 or contact us online.

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