Teeters v. Currey Case Brief

Summary of Teeters v. Currey, [1996]

Defenses: Statute of Limitations and Repose

Relevant Facts: In 1970 Pl gave birth to a normal child. Df was the attending physician. Following delivery, he recommended and performed a tubal ligation to avoid further pregnancies. Two years later Pl was hospitalized and a new Dr. discovered that she was pregnant. Pl delivered a premature child with severe complications. Another tubal ligation was performed. Pl instituted the suit 3yrs, 5 mos, 9 days after the initial surgery, and 11 mos after discovery of the pregnancy.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the statute of limitations began to run from the date the malpractice occurred, or from the date the injury was discovered?

Court’s Holding: The date the injury was discovered or should have been discovered exercising reasonable care and diligence.

Procedure: Trial ctg dismissed, Pl appealed; S. Ct Tn Reversed and Remanded.

Law or Rule(s): Under the discovery doctrine the statute, ss 28-304 TCA [‘the action must be commenced within one 1 year after the cause of action accrued.’]; does not begin to run until the negligent injury is or should have been discovered.

Court Rationale: The traditional rule is a harsh and oppressive rule. 28 states now embrace the discovery doctrine. In those classes of cases where medical malpractice is asserted to have occurred through the negligent performance of surgical procedures, the cause of action accrues and the statute of limitations commences to run when the patient discovers or in the exercise of reasonable care and diligence for his own health and welfare, should have discovered the resulting injury. This cause of action accrued when the Pl discovered that she was pregnant, or in the exercise of reasonable care and diligence, she should have so discovered.

Plaintiff’s Argument: It wasn’t until the last surgery/examination by another Dr. that the negligent and inadequate prior surgery was discovered.

Defendant’s Argument: The statute of limitations barrs recovery after one year, ignorance or failure to discover the existence of the cause of action do not prevent the statute from running.

Question : Would the exercise of reasonable and diligent care to discover the “injury,’ apply to a GYN examination, if that would have discovered the intact fallopian?

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