Texas court case shows importance of timely malpractice filing

When OB/GYN negligence affects a mother or baby in Texas, the mother has the right to file a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice. A successful malpractice lawsuit not only holds a negligent physician accountable, it can also potentially prevent the same mistake from happening again. In addition, a malpractice suit may allow those hurt the most by such negligence to obtain compensation.

However, there is only a certain amount of time that a Texan has to file suit, even in the fact of devastating pregnancy-related injuries. Last month the Texas Supreme Court ruled against a brain-damaged teenager, noting that the girl's mother did not file suit in a timely enough manner. A tort reform enacted in 2003 limited the amount of time a person can file a malpractice suit to ten years. The girl was born in late 1996, and while her mother filed a notice in 2004 that showed her intent to sue, she did not actually file the lawsuit until 2011.

The teenager's attorneys noted that since teens under 18 are not able file suit, they need an adult to do so on their behalf. If, the argument went, those adults did not act in the child's best interests, dismissing her suit would violate her right to access the court. Such a right is guaranteed under the open-courts provision of the state constitution. For their part, the judges on the Supreme Court disagreed and argued that the provision applies only to those who are "diligent" when it comes to bringing suit.

The original birth injury occurred after the girl was delivered via an emergency C-section. According to the mother's lawsuit, the procedure caused insufficient oxygen that led to permanent brain damage. The suit notes that one of the long-term consequences of such damage is that the girl must depend on others for all of her activities of daily living.

Timely filing of a malpractice suit is essential in Texas. Even if a preventable birth injury is not discovered until years after a child's birth, it is still important for families to begin the process sooner rather than later.