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In New York State, a huge move in the civil justice space has just increased protections for patients injured as a result of medical malpractice. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has officially signed Lavern’s Law, which extends the amount of time a patient has to file a lawsuit for harm caused by misdiagnosed cancer.

SealofNewYorkstatesealUntil the passing of Lavern’s Law, the clock began for victims when the actual negligence occurred. In other words, fifteen months after a patient’s misdiagnosis, a misdiagnosed victim was forever barred from bringing a lawsuit against the medical professionals who acted negligently. Now, the statute of limitations gives victims two and a half years from the date the plaintiff knew or should have known about the malpractice. This extension of time will allow more victims to seek justice.

The law was named after Lavern Wilkinson, who died in 2013 from a “treatable form of lung cancer.” Tragically, her doctors failed to tell her about a mass on her right lung, which was revealed in a chest X-ray in 2010. In 2012, Wilkinson was hospitalized. By then, the cancer had spread throughout her body, and she died the following year. The former statute of limitations in New York law prevented her or her family from filing a lawsuit for the delayed diagnosis, so justice went unserved.

Matt Funk, President of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association (NYSTLA), said that, “Lavern’s Law is the result of an extremely committed coalition of advocates, courageous patients and their families and others who came together to address injustice. We will continue to work across New York to make our state fairer, safer and more equitable for New Yorkers of all walks of life.”

Tragedy can strike anyone. It’s up to the civil justice community to ensure those victims are afforded the protections that allow them to seek the justice they deserve. All of us at Milestone commend New York legislators for this move to protect victims of cancer misdiagnosis. Congratulations are also in order for attorney Edward H. Gersowitz of Gersowitz Libo & Korek, whose efforts as former NYSTLA President helped shepherd this important legislation through its passage and the Governor’s signing.

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