Sometimes in professional malpractice cases, the negligence or error may not be recognized until years later. The Discovery Rule is designed to address this situation by providing additional time to file a lawsuit once the injured person actually discovers the negligence.
In the recently decided Holaday v Moore case, a divided Mississippi Supreme Court held that the question of whether the Discovery Rule tolls the statute of limitations is to be answered by the jury. Specifically, the Court held that the jury as the trier of of the facts is responsible for determining when he alleged act or omission might have been reasonably discovered.
The facts of the case involved the plaintiff suing St. Dominic Hospital and several physicians claiming that negligence in the treatment and care provided to Kyle Moore in May 2004. The plaintiff timely filed the lawsuit but did not know of the involvement of Dr. Holaday. Seven years later in March 2011, the plaintiff added Dr. Holaday as a defendant. Prior to the lawsuit being filed, Dr. Holaday had denied involvement in the treatment and care of Kyle Moore. However, during discovery other doctors testified that Dr. Holaday was actually involved in the medical care of Kyle Moore.
After the plaintiff added Dr. Holaday as a defendant, Dr. Holaday’s lawyer filed a motion for summary judgment claiming he should be dismissed because the two year statute of limitations had expired. In evaluating the motion for summary judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that there was a genuine dispute for the jury to decide as to when the plaintiff either knew or should have known about Dr. Holaday’s involvement in Kyle Moore’ care.
This case is significant in that it reaffirms the duties and responsibilities of a plaintiff to be diligent in investigating the facts and determining the proper defendants. However, this case does not change existing Mississippi law.