Court Finds Medical Malpractice Claim Prescribed, Rejecting Argument Based Upon “Discovery Rule”

For medical malpractice claims in Louisiana, the general rule is that a plaintiff has one year from the date of the alleged malpractice to bring his claim for damages. However, La. R.S. 9:5628 also recognizes an exception to this one-year prescription period, when the plaintiff claims he was unaware of the malpractice and there was a delay in the discovery of the alleged malpractice. This is known as the “discovery rule.”

Under the discovery rule, the prescriptive period begins to run on the date the injured party obtains actual or constructive knowledge of facts “indicating to a reasonable person that he or she is the victim of a tort.”^ Constructive knowledge is “whatever notice is enough to excite attention and put the injured person on guard and call for inquiry.”^ When a plaintiff has knowledge of facts strongly suggesting that the complaint may be the result of improper treatment, and the medical provider has not misled the patient, then “the cause of action is reasonably knowable to plaintiff.”*

The court recently examined these principles in In re Singleton, where the plaintiff relied upon the discovery rule to assert a malpractice claim against his medical provider. The plaintiff alleged his physician negligently performed a lumbar procedure in May 2017. The plaintiff initiated proceedings against the medical provider on February 6, 2019, alleging he did not discover the alleged malpractice until February 10, 2018, when he experienced a “sudden onset of excruciating pain.”

In response to the plaintiff’s claim, the medical provider produced evidence to show the plaintiff went to the emergency room on November 21, 2017, with complaints of severe lower back pain that radiated into his hips and legs. Based upon this evidence, the defendant doctor argued the actual date of delayed discovery was November 21, 2017, and that the plaintiff’s claims prescribed because they were filed more than one year after that date.

The court agreed. It held the medical provider met his burden of proof when he presented evidence that “severe” or “excruciating” pain, which allegedly advised plaintiff of his claim, was first experienced in November 2017, not February 2018 as alleged in plaintiffs’ complaint. The plaintiff was unable to produce any evidence to support the allegations in his complaint about the timing of his episode of pain or to refute the medical provider’s arguments. Therefore, the plaintiff could not show his claim of delayed discovery until February 2018 was “reasonable.” The court affirmed that the date of discovery was in November 2017, and therefore the plaintiff’s claims prescribed before suit was filed in February 2019.


In re Singleton, 23-190 (La. App. 5 Cir. 2/28/24), 2024 WL 826169.

^Campo v. Correa, 01-2707 (La. 6/21/02), 828 So.2d 502.

*Carter v. Haygood, 892 So.2d 1261, 1273 (La. 2005).


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