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Michigan appeals court upholds statue of limitations in liability case

Refusing to make an exception to the state's statute of limitations on pursuing medical liability lawsuits, a Michigan Court of Appeals said a patient could not go forward with a case against Henry Ford Health System. The decision reversed a trial court ruling that said the lawsuit could go forward even though it was pursued more than six months after Mary O. Dennis discovered that she may have a medical liability claim. The lawsuit arose after Dennis was hospitalized for an unrelated issue on Sept. 11, 2008, and physicians told her she had colon cancer that had existed for at least five years, court documents show. When Dennis asked doctors why the cancer wasn't detected during a colonoscopy two years earlier, the physicians did not answer the question, according to court records. She filed her notice of intent to sue -- the first step plaintiffs must take when filing a medical liability suit in Michigan -- about a week after the six-month filing deadline. Dennis argued that there should be an exception to the rule because she was hospitalized for nearly two weeks and did not " 'genuinely' know of her cause of action until after 'reflection and consultation with other medical authorities,' " court documents show. "The court did not find any time exception for her time in the hospital. ... The court said all of that time counted" toward the statute of limitations, said Richard E. Shaw, a Detroit attorney with Shaheen, Jacobs & Ross, who represented Dennis on the appeal. Mount Clemens, Mich., attorney Michael R. Janes of Martin, Bacon & Martin, who represented Henry Ford on the appeal, said, "The only thing you can conclude from the opinion is that the plaintiff waited too long to file suit." The ruling followed earlier case law. There are exceptions to the rule if a person is, for example, disabled or incapacitated, in a coma, or declared incompetent or insane, the court said. But it said that didn't apply in Dennis' case. "Her question concerning the failure to diagnose the cancer during the 2006 colonoscopy demonstrates that she 'was armed with the requisite knowledge to diligently pursue her claims,' " the court wrote. Shaw said there are no plans to appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court. The full and original article can be found at: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/09/12/prsc0914.htm
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