The recent passage of Lavern’s Law by the New York State Senate and Assembly marked a very proud moment for me as an attorney, an officer of the New York State Trial Lawyer Association, and, most importantly, a woman. Lavern’s Law sought to change the law by allowing a person to bring a lawsuit against a doctor for medical malpractice 2 1/2 years after that person should have discovered the misdiagnoses instead of 2 1/2 years after the treatment date.
I learned about Lavern’s Law five years ago when I joined the New York State Trial Lawyer Association at Lobby Day in Albany. I was there to speak with our local politicians about injustices in the law. One of the talking points was Lavern’s Law, named after a single mother who passed away due to a lung cancer misdiagnosis. Lavern had gone for her annual checkup, and although the doctor noticed a suspicious mass in her lungs, Lavern was never informed. She was told she had incurable lung cancer when she returned some years later due to a chronic cough. Had the doctor informed Lavern of the suspicious mass, her life could have been saved.
Lavern sought the advice of an attorney. She was a single mother with a young child who had autism. Who was going to provide for her daughter’s financial needs? Unfortunately, the attorney had to explain to Lavern that she could not bring a suit against the doctor under the current state of law because the error was committed more than 2 1/2 years ago.
The most important point of the story is that Lavern had no way of knowing that she was misdiagnosed, and it was clear that the doctor committed malpractice, yet she was unable to bring a lawsuit against the doctor due to a technicality in the law.
Shortly, Lavern passed away, leaving her autistic daughter an orphan with no means of supporting herself.
This Could Happen to Any Woman
Upon hearing Lavern’s story, I felt outraged as an attorney, but most of all, as a young mother, I was angry as a woman because this scenario could happen to any woman.
Women get annual cancer screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer. Medical Health Insurance pays for breast cancer screenings every five (5) years and .cervical cancer screenings every three (3) years. If a misdiagnosis is made at any of these screenings, the woman would have no recourse against the doctor as the 2 ½ year statute of limitations would have passed by the time the cancer was discovered.
A Promise: Justice Will Be Served
It was that day that I promised myself that I would do everything I can to ensure the passage of Lavern’s Law. I made that promise as an attorney, a mother, but most of all, as a woman.
Needless to say, the road to the passage of Laver’s Law was hard fought. The medical lobby fought against it every step of the way. However, this time we won. Lavern’s Law passed the New York State Assembly and Senate. It now sits on the desk of Governor Cuomo, awaiting his signature so it can finally become a law.
Lavern’s Law Passed!
When I learned the bill passed, tears came to my eyes. I cannot explain how great it felt to ensure that the travesty that happened to Lavern never happened again in the State of New York. It also taught me an important lesson: As an attorney, I can find injustice in the law and have the power to make a change. The true reason I love being an attorney is that I can help make a change in the law that benefits New Yorkers. I sincerely hope Governor Cuomo signs Lavern’s Law finalizing its long route to legal passage.