Photo Courtesy of the Office of the Governor
Heastie, Cuomo, and Flanagan announced in January that a three-way agreement had been reached on “Lavern’s Law.”
By Michael V. Cusenza
Governor Andrew Cuomo will soon sign into law a measure that would extend the amount of time a person can file a suit for a missed cancer diagnosis.
Known as “Lavern’s Law,” the legislation is named in honor of Brooklyn mom Lavern Wilkinson, 41, who died in 2013 from a treatable form of lung cancer after doctors at Kings County Hospital misdiagnosed her, according to a New York Daily News report.
The bill amends the statute of limitations to sue for a missed cancer diagnosis to two-and-a-half years after the time that the patient learns of the error. Current NY law limits suits for cases like Wilkinson’s to 15 months after the misdiagnosis was made. The statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice actions can expire in some cases before patients know they have been injured.
According to the Cuomo administration, “Lavern’s Law” cures that problem for cases involving failures to diagnose cancer and malignant tumors. Under the measure, the two-and-a-half-year statute of limitations would run from the date that the plaintiff knew or should have known of the negligence and injury, instead of the date when the negligence occurred, with an outer limit of seven years from the date of occurrence.
Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan announced late last month that a three-way agreement had been reached on the law.
“No one should have to go through what Lavern Wilkinson and her family did, and this agreement will help protect cancer patients and their loved ones, while also addressing concerns from the medical field,” Cuomo said. “With this reform, we will help make New York a healthier, fairer state for all.”
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach) noted that Wilkinson is survived by her daughter, Micalia Squires, who has a severe form of autism and requires extensive care. The settlement agreed upon by the hospital and the City is only a fraction of what the family could have been awarded from a medical malpractice suit – funds that, as Pheffer Amato noted, would have greatly helped relatives care for the girl.
“It’s unfortunately too late for Ms. Wilkinson’s family to get the justice they more than deserve, but I hope they find solace in knowing that because of their advocacy, more families like theirs will be able to get their day in court,” Pheffer Amato added.