This is the further analysis of the case and the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court’s final decisions that were discussed in my prior blog post titled, “The Georgia Supreme Court rules that the Statute of Limitations was Tolled when a Dental patient Seeking the advice of a Second Dentist who was a part of the original treatment, and/or performed part of the original treatment, may have begun to realize that the First Dentist(s) committed Dental Malpractice ~ part one.”
On February 13, 2008, Dr. Arnold, after examination of the Plaintiff, treated her by remaking the prostheses and also told the Plaintiff about the the improper placement and angulations of the implants that Dr. Gallant had concealed from the Plaintiff this entire time. As a result, the Plaintiff brought Dental Malpractice claim again Dr. Gallant on January 26, 2010.
The Defendant filed a motion for summary judgement claiming that the suit was time-barred. The Plaintiff, on the other hand, argued that the statute of limitations was tolled by the Defendant’s fraudulent concealment of his opinion about the improper placement of the implants. The Plaintiff argued that she did not discover the issues with the implants until she saw Dr. Arnold on February 13, 2008, which was less than two (2) years before she filed the complaint.
Citing Price v. Currie, 260 Ga. App. 526 (580 SE2d 299) (2003), the trial court granted appellants’ motion for summary judgment solely upon the finding that even if the statute of limitation was tolled by fraud, nevertheless as of the date Plaintiff sought the care of Dr. Winston on January 8, 2008, complaining of the fit and comfort of the prostheses, it was then that the Plaintiff had “consulted with another doctor,” and was then on notice of the tort so that the statute began to run at that time.
The Plaintiff appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order for summary judgement stating that Plaintiff’s visits with Dr. Winston did not end the tolling of the statute of limitations because Dr. Winston was previously associated with the Plaintiff’s care.
Generally, an action for medical malpractice must be brought within two (2) years after the date on which an injury arising from a negligent act or omission occurred. OCGA § 9-3-71. Pursuant to OCGA § 9-3-96, however, the period of limitation for filing an action against a defendant is tolled where the defendant is guilty of fraud by which the plaintiff is debarred or deterred from bringing the action, and the limitation period commences to run only from the time the plaintiff discovers the fraud.
Georgia appellate courts have held that “[o]nce a plaintiff seeks the diagnosis or care of another doctor, she is no longer deterred from learning the true facts by any conduct of a defendant ‘even if the other doctor consulted does not diagnose the medical problem as arising from the defendant’s improper treatment.'” Witherspoon v. Aranas, 254 Ga. App. 609, 614 (2) (b) (562 SE2d 853) (2002).
Those cases, however, in which consultation with another doctor was deemed to have triggered the end of the tolling of the statute of limitation for alleged fraud involve instances in which the other doctor consulted were ones where the consultation with the second doctor was a doctor who was not previously associated with the plaintiff’s care or the treatment that was allegedly negligently rendered.
In this case, however, Drs. Winston and Gallant jointly treated MacDowell for her dental problems and, Dr. Winston herself placed the implants. Therefore, consulting with Dr. Winston could not automatically be deemed to have placed MacDowell on notice of problems with the implants, or Dr. Gallant’s opinion that MacDowell’s complaints and the problems associated with the installation of the prostheses were caused by improper placement of the implants, but that he failed to disclose this to MacDowell. It cannot, therefore, be said that MacDowell was no longer deterred from learning the alleged true facts as a result of these visits to Dr. Winston.
As a result, the Court of Appeals rejected the appellants’ assertion that this holding improperly infringes upon the legislature’s role by engrafting a new provision onto the statute of limitation.
I will further discuss the analysis of the case and the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court’s final decisions that were discussed in my prior blog post titled, “The Georgia Supreme Court rules that the Statute of Limitations was Tolled when a Dental patient Seeking the advice of a Second Dentist who was a part of the original treatment, and/or performed part of the original treatment, may have begun to realize that the First Dentist(s) committed Dental Malpractice ~ part one.”
At Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law, & Affiliates, we are experts in both Dental and Medical Malpractice cases and we understand the law in these case so if you or a loved one have been injured or killed by the negligence of a dentist, doctor, or other medical professional, then please Contact Us for your free legal consultation.
We are here to make sure that you receive all of the just compensation that you deserve, and, as is noted in the case at issue here, there are strict time limitations to these cases so it very important that you contact as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you soon!