Massachusetts Appellate Court Reverses Dismissal of Medical Malpractice Action Based on Statute of Limitations

In the recent case of Arsenault v. Bhattacharya, a Massachusetts appellate court considered whether the dismissal without prejudice of a medical malpractice action was appropriate. The plaintiff filed a complaint against the doctor on October 21, 2013, alleging that the doctor incompetently treated her for carpal tunnel syndrome and cervical spondylosis with radiculopathy. The doctor first began treating the woman for these conditions in January 2008.

In response to the plaintiff’s complaint, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the case was time-barred under the statute of limitations. According to Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 231, section 60L, a plaintiff must provide notice to a physician of an intent to file a lawsuit against him or her. The notice must be provided six months before the lawsuit is filed. This statute also lays out a number of other requirements that apply to medical malpractice cases in Massachusetts. For example, the notice must include a description of the facts giving rise to the claim and the standard of care that the plaintiff deems applicable to the circumstances. It also allows for the six-month notice period to be shortened to 90 days when certain conditions are met.

According to the lower court, the plaintiff’s cause of action against the doctor who treated her wrists arose on April 5, 2012. Since the complaint was filed on October 21, 2013, the lower court held it was within the appropriate timeframe. Since the plaintiff sued before the six-month notice period had expired, however, the lower court concluded that the complaint should be dismissed without prejudice.

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court’s dismissal, concluding that the appropriate recourse for a failure to wait until the expiration of the six-month notice period was not the dismissal of the action altogether. The statute that requires plaintiffs intending to sue physicians to provide six months notice did not speak to how a court should handle a plaintiff’s failure to comply with the notice period. The appellate court also noted that there have not been any other appellate decisions interpreting this issue.

Ultimately, the court concluded that dismissal was a draconian response to the situation and that the lower court should have considered more practical and efficient measures before resorting to dismissal. The appellate court remanded the case and instructed the lower court to provide the plaintiff with time to amend the complaint to discuss the statute requiring the six-month notice period. Once the complaint was amended, the complaint would be deemed appropriately filed within the statute of limitations.

If you have suffered injuries as a result of medical malpractice, the experienced lawyers at the Law Offices of John S. Moffa are ready to assist you in seeking the settlement or the judgment that you deserve. Medical malpractice can be devastating, especially when the injuries are permanent and painful. Our team of legal professionals has substantial experience in reviewing medical records, negotiating with insurance companies, and understanding complex and intricate medical conditions and practices. Proudly assisting victims throughout Massachusetts, we offer a free consultation to help you learn more about your options. Call us now at 1-800-446-4485 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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