Thursday, October 25, 2018

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Plaintiffs on the Discovery Rule as Applied to the Statute of Limitations

In the case of Nicolaou v. Martin, No. 44 MAP 201 (Pa. Oct. 17, 2018)(Op. by Baer, J.), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court handed down its latest decision on the application of the Discovery Rule relative to the statute of limitations in a civil litigation matter.

According to the Opinion, sometime in 2001, the Plaintiff was bitten by a tick on her left ankle, after which she developed symptoms. 

This case presented the issue of whether the Plaintiff satisfied the Discovery Rule so as to toll the running of the statute of limitations on their medical malpractice action filed against the Defendant health care providers for failing to diagnose and treat her Lyme's disease. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted that the Discovery Rule tolls the statute of limitations where a plaintiff is reasonably unaware that she or he has been injured and that her or his injury was caused by the negligence of another.  In this regard, a reasonable diligence standard is applied against plaintiffs.  The Court also noted that the question as to whether the Discovery Rule serves to save a plaintiff's case is generally one for a jury to decide. 

In this matter, the trial court and the Superior Court had both ruled that the Defendants were entitled to summary judgment, holding that the Discovery Rule did not toll the statute of limitations because, as a matter of law, appellants failed to establish that they pursued their action with reasonable diligence. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed and held that the determination of whether appellants acted with due diligence under the circumstances presented in this matter was one of fact for a jury to decide.  As such, the entry of summary judgment was overturned and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Anyone wishing to review this case may click this LINK.

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