In a disappointing decision by the New Mexico Court of Appeals in October of last year, a plaintiff’s bad drug and medical malpractice claim against his doctor was dismissed because the statute of limitations expired before the suit was filed. The Court’s ruling in Chavez v. Delgado, 2014-NMCA-014 (2014), is important because it determined that the three year statute of limitations period for a medical malpractice claim begins when an injured plaintiff is prescribed an allegedly harmful medication, and not when he or she suffers a related injury or dies.
According to the Court’s recitation of the facts, Jose Chavez was prescribed the generic version of Zocor by his doctor on November 11, 2008. When prescribing the medication, Dr. James Delgado failed to notice a dangerous drug interaction between Zocor and another of Mr. Chavez’ prescribed medications. On December 3, 2008, Chavez filled the prescription for Zocor and began to take the medication. After consuming the dangerous combination of drugs, he became ill and was hospitalized with drug induced rhabdomyolysis. Within 14 months, Jose Chavez was dead.
The Liability for Mr. Chavez’ Death
Mr. Chavez was survived by his wife and multiple children, the plaintiffs in a suit against the doctor and clinic for medical malpractice. The lawsuit alleged that before he prescribed the Zocor, Dr. Delgado had a duty to check for harmful interactions with Chavez’ other medications. The family claimed Delgado was liable for Chavez’ illness and death, and requested damages as a result of the doctor’s negligence. In their defense, Dr. Delgado and the clinic argued that the case be dismissed because it was not filed within three years of the date that Dr. Delgado wrote the prescription for the Zocor.
The statute of limitations in a New Mexico medical malpractice claim is three years. Believing they were within the statute of limitations to make a claim, The Chavez’ family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Delgado and the Pojoaqe Primary Care clinic in Santa Fe, New Mexico within three years of when Chavez filled his prescription for Zocor, on December 1, 2011. Considering the facts surrounding Chavez’ illness and death, it appeared that the family had a strong case for medical malpractice and could have been entitled to substantial financial compensation from the defendants.
The Claim is Rejected on Appeal
In the decision, the New Mexico Court of Appeals dismissed the case, siding with Dr. Delgado and reversing a lower court’s order that the case would proceed to trial. The Court of Appeals ruled that the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim begins to run when a doctor prescribes an allegedly harmful drug, and not when an illness or injury occurs or is diagnosed. Because the family’s complaint was filed three years and twenty days after the Zocor was prescribed to Chavez, their lawsuit was dismissed.
The Court even considered that Mr. Chavez did not take Zocor or suffer any symptoms until well within the three year statute of limitations, but his claim was still dismissed. This ruling, which is now New Mexico law, makes it even more important for a suit to be filed as soon as possible after a patient is injured or becomes sick. Victims of medical malpractice should consult an attorney quickly after they first notice symptoms from any unexpected medical problem.
Do You Need a New Mexico Medical Malpractice Attorney?
If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of a doctor or hospital’s negligence, it is important now more than ever to contact a skilled New Mexico medical malpractice lawyer. The Fine Law Firm will work diligently to get you the compensation you deserve. The Fine Law Firm is experienced in New Mexico personal injury and malpractice cases, and their dedicated attorneys focus on each clients’ individual needs. Don’t run out of time. To speak with a medical malpractice attorney today, call Fine Law Firm at 505-889-FINE (3463), or click here to contact the firm.
More Blog Posts:
New Mexico Man Caught Driving While Intoxicated for the Eleventh Time, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 23, 2014.
New Mexico Appellate Court Opinion Discusses the Adoption of the Doctrine of Circuity in a Recent Negligence Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 27, 2014.