As the number of people infected with the coronavirus in the United States continues to rise, and our community leaders rise to the challenge of timely and appropriately responding to the ever-changing pandemic, we note that some states are beginning to close courts as they order their residents to shelter in place. Such orders preclude prospective jurors and parties to medical malpractice cases from providing and receiving justice. Medical malpractice victims who have been waiting for years for their medical malpractice cases to wind their way through our justice system and who were anxiously waiting for their cases to be tried before juries on dates scheduled this month, next month, and beyond have now become victims of circumstances beyond their control.
But what about victims of medical malpractice claims who have yet to file formal medical malpractice claims in their respective states? Will some of their claims be untimely because of the medical malpractice statute of limitations in their states, and they have yet to find a lawyer to represent them or because the courts are closed?
Some states (and we anticipate more states in the near future) have implemented emergency orders that have tolled or extended the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases. The tolling period or extensions differ in various states.
For example, on March 14, 2020, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued an “Order Declaring Statewide Judicial Emergency” in which it stated, in part: “Pursuant to OCGA §38-3-62, during the period of this Order, the undersigned hereby suspends, tolls, extends, and otherwise grants relief from any deadlines or other time schedules or filing requirements imposed by otherwise applicable statutes, rules, regulations, or court orders, whether in civil or criminal cases or administrative matters, including, but not limited to any: (1) statute of limitation … ”
In Louisiana, the Governor issued a Proclamation on March 16, 2020 that provides, in part: “SECTION 5: A. Legal deadlines, including liberative prescription and peremptive periods applicable to legal proceedings in all courts, administrative agencies, and boards, are hereby suspended until at least Monday, April 13, 2020, including, but not limited to, any such deadlines set forth by law within the following: … 5. Title 9 of Louisiana Revised Statutes, Civil Code Ancillaries; … ”
In New York, the Governor issued an Executive Order in which he ordered, in part: “In accordance with the directive of the Chief Judge of the State to limit court operations to essential matters during the pendency of the COVID-19 health crisis, any specific time limit for the commencement, filing, or service of any legal action, notice, motion, or other process or proceeding, as prescribed by the procedural laws of the state, including but not limited to the criminal procedure law, the family court act, the civil practice law and rules, the court of claims act, the surrogate’s court procedure act, and the uniform court acts, or by any other statute, local law, ordinance, order, rule, or regulation, or part thereof, is hereby tolled from the date of this executive order until April 19, 2020;”
The Delaware Supreme Court issued its Administrative Order No. 3 dated March 22, 2020 that stated, in part: “Deadlines in court rules or state or local statutes and ordinances applicable to the judiciary that expire between March 23, 2020 and April 15, 2020 are extended through April 21, 2020. Statutes of limitations and statutes of repose that would otherwise expire during the period between March 23, 2020 and April 15, 2020 are hereby extended through April 21, 2020. Deadlines, statutes of limitations, and statutes of repose that are not set to expire between March 23, 2020 and April 15, 2020 are not extended or tolled by this order. Deadlines imposed by court order continue to remain in place but may be extended, consistent with court practices, for good cause shown, including a COVID-19 related cause.”
We expect other states to follow suit by tolling or extending the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases or otherwise granting at least temporary relief to those whose medical malpractice claims cannot presently be actively pursued in state court.
If you or a loved one have suffered serious harm as a result of coronavirus medical malpractice (COVID-19 medical malpractice) in the United States, you should promptly find a coronavirus medical malpractice lawyer (COVID-19 medical malpractice lawyer) near you who may investigate your COVID-19 medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a coronavirus medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Click here to visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find medical malpractice attorneys in your U.S. state who may assist you.
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