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Transplant Plaintiffs: Lift Time Limit on Medical Liability Suits

When something like a needle or a sponge is left in a patient after surgery, it can take years for the person to feel the effects.

Normally, medical professional liability claims must be filed within seven years of an operation. But when an object is mistakenly left inside a patient and causes injuries, a claim can be filed after the seven-year limit, under Pennsylvania’s MCARE Act (Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error).

Now, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether that time-limit exemption violates the rights of other “similarly situated patients” – in this case, an organ transplant donor and recipient. They hold that the exemption is meant to protect plaintiffs like them, people who can’t know about negligence within seven years.

Yanakos v. UPMC includes a son who donated part of his liver to his mother. The son alleges that his presurgical testing showed liver disease, which would have disqualified him as a donor, but that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center failed to inform him.

Mother and son filed claims of negligence and lack of informed consent against UPMC 13 years later, alleging they both suffered from liver disease. UPMC tried to stop the suit based on the seven-year liability limit under the MCARE Act. Lower courts agreed with UPMC.