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, as an officer of the New York State Trial Lawyer Association, but most importantly as a woman. Lavern’s Law sought to change the law by allowing a person to bring a law suit against a doctor for medical malpractice 2 1/2 years after that person should have discovered the misdiagnoses as opposed to 2 1/2 years after the date of treatment.
I first 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 misdiagnoses of lung cancer. Lavern had gone for her annual checkup, although the doctor noticed a suspicious mass in her lungs, Lavern was never informed. When she returned some years later due to a chronic cough, she was told that she had incurable lung cancer. 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 under the current state of law she was unable to bring a suit against the doctor 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, she left her autistic daughter, an orphan, with no means of supporting herself.
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.
It was that day that I promised myself that I would 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 at 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 that it can finally become a law.
When I found out that 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 happens again in the State of New York. It also taught me an important lesson: As an attorney, I have the ability to find injustice in the law and the power to make a change. The idea, that I can help make a change in the law which benefits New Yorkers is the true reason that I love being an attorney. I am sincerely hopeful, that Governor Cuomo signs Lavern’s Law finalizing its long route to legal passage.
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