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Lavern’s Law: Date of Discovery

In 2013, a 41-year-old mother from Brooklyn named Lavern Wilkinson passed away from a form of lung cancer which was thought to be curable. Had Lavern Wilkinson been told that she had a cancerous mass which was shown in a chest x-ray taken in 2010, she may have been alive today. Lavern Wilkinson did not discover that she had cancer, or that the doctors committed malpractice three years earlier, until it was too late. 

To add insult to injury, the Wilkinson family is barred by the statute of limitations in bringing a lawsuit against the doctors at Kings County Hospital who neglected to see the cancerous mass on the x-ray film, thereby denying Lavern Wilkinson an opportunity to get needed medical treatment. 

Under the current law, in order to bring a lawsuit against a public hospital, a plaintiff must commence their lawsuit within one year and ninety days from the act of malpractice. Patients at private hospitals have two-and-a-half years in order to bring their claim. The current law in New York does not allow for a statute of limitations to be tolled for the discovery of a doctor’s malpractice. 

“Lavern’s Law” was passed by the State Assembly last year, but was not voted on by the Senate. Currently, the bill is awaiting a vote by the Senate. It is supported by Gov. Cuomo, and if passed into law, it would alter the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases allowing for a “Date of Discovery” toll which could provide needed legal redress for families who would otherwise be denied their day in court. 

Lavern’s case is not uncommon. Many families are adversely affected by New York State’s failure to provide a date of discovery toll in the medical malpractice statute of limitations. New York is one of only 5 states who do not protect their citizen’s with this type of law. 

Two years ago, Edward Steinberg and numerous NYSTLA members lobbied with the New York State Legislature in an attempt to push Lavern’s Law into effect. 

Please reach out to your Senator and Assemblymember and urge them to support bringing the bill to a vote.