Tag: Medical Malpractice Prescription

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).

Interrupted by Silence: Medical Malpractice Prescription

By C. Reynolds LeBlanc

La. R.S. 9:5628 provides that a patient/medical malpractice plaintiff must assert his or her claim within one year of the alleged negligent act or from when that act is discovered. If a claim is not raised within this time frame, it is “prescribed,” i.e., untimely. The statute also declares that all claims must be asserted within three years of the alleged negligent act, even if the patient was unaware of the malpractice. However, there are exceptions.

Under the doctrine of contra non valentem, prescription does not run if the defendant has done something to prevent the plaintiff from filing within the prescriptive period. In In re Medical Review Panel of Gerard Lindquist, 18-444 (La. App. 5 Cir. 5/23/19), 274 So.3d 750, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit considered whether a decision not to tell a patient about malpractice exempted from prescription a claim which was not filed within three years of the alleged malpractice.

In the case, Lindquist had spinal surgery on August 22, 2013. He returned on August 24, 2013 with complaints of pain. Although an x-ray showed a metal artifact in the operative site of his back, he was not informed and was discharged. He returned the next day with continued complaints of pain and an MRI was ordered. Like the x-ray, the MRI showed the metal artifact. Again, the plaintiff was not informed.

Lindquist continued to experience pain for years. When another MRI was performed on May 25, 2017, Lindquist was first informed of the metal object in his back. Within months,  he filed a claim against the doctor who performed the 2013 surgery. In response, the doctor argued that the claim was prescribed under La. R.S. 9:5628 because it was filed more than three years after the surgery.

Contra non valentem applies where a plaintiff has been lulled into inaction because of concealment or fraudulent conduct by the defendant. The doctor argued that this standard was not met simply because the doctor was silent about the patient’s condition. However, the Lindquist court held that a doctor possesses an affirmative duty to advise a patient of pertinent medical information such as the presence of a metal artifact near the spine.  Therefore, if the doctor, as alleged in Lindquist, failed to disclose a metal foreign object, this would constitute a fraudulent act which prevented the plaintiff from filing his claim timely.  In Lindquist, prescription was interrupted by silence and the plaintiff/patient was allowed to pursue his claim.

Reynolds LeBlanc is a partner at Keogh Cox. His practice areas include commercial litigation, personal injury claims, appeals, and other matters. Reynolds is a former teacher, who in his free time plays music and perpetually talks himself into training for his next marathon.