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The Ohio statute of repose for medical wrongful-death claims

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2024 | Wrongful Death & Serious Injury Litigation

 Claims for wrongful death involve some of the most devastating circumstances a person can face. However, the difficulties of a wrongful death claim are only magnified if that loss was caused by some form of medical malpractice.

Aside from the personal complications, the legal complexities compound when these two areas of the law come together. The case of “Everhart v. Coshocton County Memorial Hospital” shows this clearly.

Victim’s wife takes action against hospital

 The victim figured in a car crash in 2003. He was rushed to Coshocton Hospital and then brought to Ohio State University Medical Center for treatment. At Coshocton Hospital, doctors noticed a possible “lung contusion” in his chest X-ray.

Three years later, he went to Coshocton Hospital with a cough, abdominal pain and blood in his urine. Tests revealed a huge mass in his right lung, and more tests confirmed his advanced stage of lung cancer. Two months after the diagnosis, he died in 2006.

His widow sued Coshocton Hospital and its doctors in 2008 for wrongful death and medical malpractice. She alleged that they failed to inform and remind her husband about the lung issue in 2003.

High Court settles the tussle

In Ohio, the statute of repose allows medical malpractice victims to file a case four years after the incident. Since the victim’s wife sued for wrongful death due to a medical malpractice incident that happened more than four years ago, a tug-of-war over the statute of repose went all the way to the Supreme Court.

The trial court sided with the defendants, prompting the victim’s wife to appeal. The Tenth District Court overturned the decision because the statute of repose didn’t apply to her wrongful death claim.

In December 2023, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling in favor of the hospital and its doctors. It reasoned that the medical claim stated in the four-year statute of repose includes claims for wrongful death based on medical care.

Time limit to file for claims

It is crucial to keep track of the time and file a suit early if you believe your loss was due to negligence. No matter the personal and legal difficulties experienced, if you don’t move soon, you may lose any chance to pursue closure.