Wyoming Lawmakers Still Have Not Fixed The State’s Broken Med Mal Statute
In Wyoming, medical malpractice claims must be brought within a certain number of years. This is known as the statute of limitations, and it creates a legal time limit for patients to pursue compensation for injuries sustained as a result of errors committed by health care providers.
For adults, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in Wyoming is generally 2 years from the date of the error that harmed the patient. The time limit for bringing a medical malpractice claim for injury to a child, however, remains less straightforward due to inaction on the part of lawmakers in Wyoming.
Do not rely solely on what you read online to determine whether you have a medical malpractice claim. If you suspect your child was injured as a result of medical negligence, call Burg Simpson at 307-527-7891 today for a FREE and confidential case evaluation.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice in Wyoming?
As we mentioned above, adults generally have 2 years to pursue a claim for damages arising from medical malpractice. The statute may be extended if it can be shown that the plaintiff could not have reasonably known about a medical error within the 2-year limit, but it is important not to rely on such an extension.
Overall, the statute of limitations for adult medical malpractice claims is fairly straightforward. The law for children, however, is confusing.
Wyoming has established the following law concerning the right of plaintiffs to recover damages for injuries sustained when they are minors:
“If a person entitled to bring any action except for an action arising from error or omission in the rendering of licensed or certified professional or health care services or for a penalty or forfeiture, is, at the time the cause of action accrues, a minor or subject to any other legal disability, the person may bring the action within three (3) years after the disability is removed or within any other statutory period of limitation, whichever is greater.”– Wyoming Statutes § 1-3-114
A separate statute governs the limitation period for medical malpractice claims where the plaintiff is a minor:
“For injury to the rights of a minor, by his eighth birthday or within two (2) years of the date of the alleged act, error or omission, whichever period is greater, except that a cause of action may be instituted not more than two (2) years after discovery of the alleged act, error or omission, if the claimant can establish that the alleged act, error or omission was:
– Wyoming Statutes § 1-3-107(a)(ii)
- (A) Not reasonably discoverable within the two (2) year period; or
- (B) That the claimant failed to discover the alleged act, error or omission within the two (2) year period despite the exercise of due diligence.”
In essence, this latter law prohibited minors from seeking the same relief for medical malpractice injuries as they would otherwise have enjoyed for other incidents resulting in personal injury.
What Wyoming’s Courts Have to Say
The contradiction between Wyoming’s personal injury statute of limitations and medical malpractice statute of limitations was at the heart of Kordus v. Montes. This case made it all the way to the Wyoming Supreme Court, and the decision continues to have significant ramifications for medical malpractice claims involving minor children.
In 2007, a 12-year-old girl referred to only as JK was admitted for a routine appendectomy. After being discharged from the hospital, she started to experience complications that would ultimately require a second surgery.
JK’s parents filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Leigh Montes, the surgeon who performed the original appendectomy. Dr. Montes moved to dismiss, arguing that the claim was barred by the 2-year statute of limitations found in Wyo. Stat. § 1-3-107. The district court agreed, and the case was dismissed.
Plaintiffs filed an appeal, arguing that the statute cited by Dr. Montes violated protections afforded by the Wyoming Constitution:
“All courts shall be open and every person for an injury done to person, reputation or property shall have justice administered without sale, denial or delay. Suits may be brought against the state in such manner and in such courts as the legislature may by law direct.”– Wyoming Constitution Article 1, Section 8
Ultimately, the Wyoming Supreme Court found this argument persuasive. The original decision of the district court was reversed, and Chief Justice Burke wrote the following:
“We therefore hold that the statute of limitations for minors, Wyo. Stat. Aun. § 1-3-107(a)@i), violates Article 1, Section 8 of the Wyoming Constitution. We also hold that the exception now contained in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-8-114-’exeept [sic] for an action arising from error or omission in the rendering of licensed or certified professional or health care services’-is also constitutionally infirm.”– Kordus v. Montes, Supreme Court of Wyoming
In short, the court ruled that the minor in this case, JK, should not be punished for her parents’ failure to act in a timely manner on her behalf. Furthermore, the court found that the previously enacted statutes infringed on the rights of minors to seek justice for injury.
How Long Do Parents Have to Bring Medical Malpractice Claims on Behalf of Their Children Now?
When a law is struck down by the courts, it is the responsibility of the legislature to pass new laws. It is now 9 years since the ruling in Kordus v. Montes, and legislators have yet to take action.
Multiple sources online still contain the original text of both statutes, with no disclaimer or other indication that the sections concerning the statute of limitations for minors were found unconstitutional. Parents looking for up-to-date information on the statute of limitations may read these laws and conclude that they have no legal recourse for injuries their child has suffered due to medical malpractice.
You may still have time to bring a claim. If you or a member of your family sustained injuries while receiving health care services, it is in your best interest to speak to a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible.
Get Help with Your Medical Malpractice Claim
Medical malpractice cases are among the most challenging to litigate. The evidence is complex, and it can be difficult for plaintiffs to meet the burden of proof. What’s more, the statute of limitations provides a limited time to file a lawsuit.
Burg Simpson Law Firm has extensive experience with medical malpractice litigation. Our award-winning trial lawyers know to prepare a strong case on your behalf and fight the compensation you deserve.
For a FREE and confidential case evaluation, contact Burg Simpson today. Our attorneys handle medical malpractice claims on behalf of clients in Cody and all of Wyoming.