Statute of Limitations/Discovery Rule: Social Media Post Thwarts Malpractice Suit, Court Rules

February 22, 2017 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​Applying the discovery rule, a Pennsylvania court of appeals found that a plaintiff's social media post and a supportive response from a friend constituted sufficient evidence that the patient-plaintiff had not acted with "due diligence" in filing suit in a timely manner (within the two-year period provided by the commonwealth's statute of limitations) against several medical providers who had treated her. Concluding that the statute of limitations barred the lawsuit, the appellate court upheld a lower court order granting summary judgment to the defendants.

In 2001, the patient was bitten by a tick. She sought medical treatment after she began to experience various maladies that she associated with the tick bite. She developed a rash near the site of the bite and experienced fatigue, lower back pain, and numbness and tingling in her left big toe. Over time, she developed incontinence, total loss of bladder control, tingling and numbness throughout her body, and difficulty walking and became confined to a wheelchair. She saw several physicians at various times between 2001 and 2008. They ordered a battery of tests, including four Lyme disease tests, none of which produced a positive result for Lyme disease. In July 2006, results of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain suggested a diagnosis of either multiple sclerosis (MS) or Lyme disease. Given the previous negative test results for Lyme disease, the defendants treated...

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