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Court Dismisses Medical Malpractice Claim Against Tennessee VA

In 2009, the VA notified more than 10,000 veterans that they may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV while undergoing colonoscopies at Veterans Affairs facilities. The VA said the exposure risk stemmed from improper cleaning of the tools used to perform the procedures.Approximately 6,000 of those veterans were treated at a VA clinic in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The others were treated at clinics in Augusta, Georgia and Miami, Florida. To date, at least 90 veterans have tested positive for one of the three viruses.

Unfortunately, a recent ruling in Tennessee has made it hard for exposed veterans to seek redress for injuries caused by medical negligence.

Time Limits for Tennessee Malpractice Cases

The victim in the case contracted hepatitis B from a colonoscopy in 2006. However, theVA did not inform him of the problems with the colonoscopy equipment until 2009.

The victim filed an administrative tort claim – the first step toward bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the VA – just 10 months after learning he had been infected with hepatitis. Unfortunately, by that time it was too late. His case was recently dismissed by a federal appeals court on the grounds that he waited too long to file suit.

Even though the VA is a federal agency, medical malpractice claims against the VA are governed by state statutes of limitation. Tennessee has one of the shortest statutes of limitation in the country.

Under Tennessee law, a medical malpractice claim must be filed within three years of the date the alleged negligent act occurred. It is important to note that this does not mean three years from the date the victim realized he was injured or three years from the date the victim realized his injury might have been caused by medical negligence. The time limit is three years from the date of the negligent act, regardless of whether the victim draws the links or not.

However, there is an exception in cases where the physician or medical facility fraudulently concealed the source of the injury.

Because of this short time limit, individuals who suspect they may have been the victim of medical negligence should contact a Tennessee medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. In many cases, filing a lawsuit can preserve victims’ rights while evidence is collected to support their claims.