Akron, Ohio


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Chrissie Cole
Chrissie Cole
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Limit Overturned in Kids' Malpractice Lawsuits

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A decision by the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday, gives parents more time to file lawsuits against doctors for anguish they suffer when their child is victim of medical malpractice.

The new ruling extends the window that parents can files suits from one year up to the child’s 19th birthday. The decision was unanimous and based on claims brought upon by the parents of a 17-year-old Tara Fehrenbach.

The decision means, parents of a child injured by medical malpractice, will not be put in the position to file a lawsuit within a year of the injury when the impact may not be fully known yet.

With the old system, parents were allowed one year from the time of the injury to file suit, while the child had until their 19th birthday to sue.

For doctors, this means they are exposed to longer potential suits but it may lessen litigation because both the parents and child’s claims will come at the same time.

“Rarely do we get the opportunity to change Ohio law for the better, but the Fehrenbach v. O’Malley case released today … finally recognizes how goofy it was that a parent had to bring suit before the child’s statute of limitations had run (out),” said First District Court of Appeals Judge Sylvia Hendon, who wrote the original decision.

The Fehrenbachs’ lawyer, John Metz, said the decision is a victory for both sides of the litigation. “It eliminates the duplication and possibility of contradictory results,” he said.

Tara’s parents, Gina and Thomas Fehrenbach, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Tara and themselves in 1997 against her pediatrician, Kathryn O’Malley, and O’Malley’s employer, Suburban Pediatric Associates. They claimed negligence because the defendants failed to diagnose and treat the meningitis that led to Tara’s health problems.

The case was dismissed due to the statute of limitations running out. The couple appealed and the 1st District Court of Appeals reinstated the claim last year, with Ohio Supreme court agreeing.