NC Court of Appeals Considers Time Limitations on Medical Malpractice Case

Last Wednesday, the North Carolina Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in Glover v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, a case with implications for how long a plaintiff has to file a medical negligence lawsuit.

The case involves a couple who claim their obstetrician/gynecologist misinterpreted the results of the pregnant woman’s 2011 genetic test as negative for cystic fibrosis, when in fact the test results were positive. The woman delivered a healthy baby in 2011 and continued to visit the same physician until her second child was born in 2015. This child has cystic fibrosis.

The couple filed suit against the physician, hospital, and other defendants in 2017, alleging ‘wrongful conception and negligent infliction of emotional distress resulting from lack of informed consent.’ They seek reimbursement for the ‘extraordinary expenses’ of raising a child with cystic fibrosis. The lower court dismissed the case because the suit was filed after the four year statute or repose for medical malpractice cases had expired.

The couple appealed the dismissal, arguing that since the physician continued to care for his patient, there was a ‘continuing course of treatment’ that acted to extend the statute of repose.  The oral arguments before the Court of Appeals centered on whether this ‘continuing course of treatment’ doctrine applies under these facts, and thus, whether the statute of repose bars the Glovers’ claims.

The North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) filed a an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief in this case, arguing the ‘continuing course of treatment doctrine’ should not apply here and that the lower court correctly dismissed the case as untimely. The NCMS brief also notes that North Carolina law prohibits recovery of child-rearing expenses, including extraordinary cost, in a ‘wrongful conception’ claim.

NCMS staff attended the oral arguments to hear the judges’ questions, which did not portray a leaning one way or the other on whether they will allow this case to proceed. Watch your NCMS Bulletin for the Court’s ruling on this case and its implications for other medical malpractice claims.

 
 

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