10-Year Statute of Repose for Medical Malpractice

Missouri Supreme Court Upholds 10-Year Statute of Repose for Medical Malpractice Claims

Earlier this year, The Supreme Court of Missouri affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of a medical malpractice claim after a healthcare provider left foreign objects in a patient’s abdomen after surgery. Ambers-Phillips v. SSM DePaul Health Center, 259 S.W. 3d 901 (Mo. banc 2015).

The Plaintiff had an exploratory laparotomy performed in 1999, during which surgeons left four foreign objects in her abdomen. The objects were not discovered until the Plaintiff underwent another surgery in June of 2013.

After the Plaintiff discovered that the foreign objects were the cause of her pain, she filed a medical malpractice suit against the hospital that performed her initial surgery. The trial court held that the case was barred by the 10-year statute of repose, which started running when the tort allegedly occurred, not when the Plaintiff learned of the harm.

The Plaintiff appealed directly to the Missouri Supreme Court, alleging that the trial court’s interpretation of the Statute of Repose was a violation of due process, equal protection, and the Missouri Constitution’s open courts and special legislation provisions. The Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decision, and indicated that because statutes of repose are distinct from statutes of limitations, they are not unconstitutional if they are not subject to equitable tolling, meaning that they begin running when the incident occurred, not when the plaintiff learns of the harm.

To learn more about this case, you can read the opinion here.

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10-Year Statute of Repose for Medical Malpractice - Bley & Evans