Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Review Statute of Limitations in Survival Actions
On June 7, 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to review the Superior Court’s expansion of the statute of limitations applicable to survival actions in medical malpractice cases.
In Dubose v. Quinlan, the Superior Court affirmed judgments entered in a wrongful-death and survival action brought by the administrator of the estate of Elise Dubose. Dubose died while in the care of Willowcrest Nursing Home, after developing severe pressure ulcers that were left untreated. During her stay at Willowcrest, Mrs. Dubose was malnourished, suffered severe dehydration, pain from bed sores, bone infection, and developed sepsis systemic infection that ultimately lead to organ failure and death in October of 2007. The jury found in favor of plaintiff in the amount of $125,000 on the Wrongful Death Claim and $1,000,000 on the Survival Action.
The defendants argued on appeal that they were entitled to a judgment notwithstanding the verdict because the Survival Action exceeded the two-year statute of limitations, pursuant to the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (“MCARE) Act. Defendants argued that the statute of limitations began to run in 2005, when Dubose developed the first pressure wound. The plaintiff filed two complaints in August 2009 and September 2009, so therefore the claim would have been barred. However, the Superior Court disagreed, ruling that the statute began to run at the time of death, in October of 2007. Believing that the approach the Superior Court took was far too literal, the defendants then filed a Petition for Allowance of Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court, claiming that the expansion of the statute of limitations was improper.
If the Supreme Court affirms the decision, it would open up more litigation in the medical malpractice field. A plaintiff could bring a survival action suit for an injury caused by another person’s negligence if there were complications that resulted in death, regardless of how many years are between the injury and death.