In its decision dated May 2, 2014, the Rhode Island Supreme Court (“Supreme Court”) held that the Rhode Island Legislature did not intend for negligence actions against medical laboratories to fall under the ambit of Rhode Island’s medical malpractice laws.
In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court referred to Title 5 (“Businesses and Professions”) Chapter 5-37 (“Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline”) § 5-37-1(8), which states as follows: “”Medical malpractice” or “malpractice” means any tort, or breach of contract based on health care or professional services rendered, or which should have been rendered, by a physician, dentist, hospital, clinic, health maintenance organization or professional service corporation providing health care services and organized under chapter 5.1 of title 7, to a patient or the rendering of medically unnecessary services except at the informed request of the patient.”
The Supreme Court stated, “Examining the plain language of § 5-37-1(8), we are convinced that Corning and Quest do not fall within the ambit of a physician, dentist, hospital, clinic, or professional service corporation organized under G.L. 1956 chapter 5.1 of title 7. Moreover, because laboratories are licensed pursuant to G.L. 1956 chapter 16.2 of title 23, Corning and Quest do not meet the definition of health maintenance organizations within the definition of medical malpractice … [B]ecause the plaintiffs’ allegations against the defendants Corning and Quest are not medical malpractice claims, the judgments entered in favor of the defendant Corning and the defendant Quest are vacated.”
The Supreme Court’s holding that negligence claims against medical laboratories were ordinary negligence claims and not medical malpractice claims was important to the parties because the issue was relevant to the plaintiffs’ claims: ordinary negligence claims are subject to the statute of limitations contained within § 9-1-19,9 (“”Disability postponing running of statute. If any person at the time any such cause of action shall accrue to him or her shall be under the age of eighteen (18) years, or of unsound mind, or beyond the limits of the United States, the person may bring the cause of action, within the time limited under this chapter, after the impediment is removed.”) whereas medical malpractice claims are subject to the statute of limitations contained within § 9-1-14.1(1) (“an action for medical * * * malpractice shall be commenced within three (3) years from the time of the occurrence of the incident which gave rise to the action; provided, however, that: (1) One who is under disability by reason of age, mental incompetence, or otherwise, and on whose behalf no action is brought within the period of three (3) years from the time of the occurrence of the incident, shall bring the action within three (3) years from the removal of the disability.”).
If you or a family member suffered serious injury or other substantial harm as a result of medical malpractice in Rhode Island or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a Rhode Island medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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