May 23, 2020

The Supreme Court of Missouri en banc (“Missouri Supreme Court”) held in its opinion filed on March 31, 2020: “the uncontroverted material facts are that the necessity that gave rise to Dr. Meddows-Jackson’s duty of continuing care ceased when the treatment for cyst removal and resulting surgical site infection ended, i.e., June 18, 2013, at the latest. Any tolling under the continuing care tolling doctrine ended that same day, and the Newtons had two years from that date to file suit. Because they failed to do so, their action is time-barred.”

The Underlying Facts

On July 10, 2012, Dr. Meddows-Jackson surgically removed Ms. Newton’s cyst. She then saw Ms. Newton three separate times between July 16, 2012, and August 1, 2012, for post-operative care. During that time, Ms. Newton developed an infection. As a result, Dr. Meddows-Jackson admitted Ms. Newton to the hospital and a specialist began treating Ms. Newton’s infection. After this hospitalization, Dr. Meddows-Jackson saw Ms. Newton on September 11, 2012, for a follow-up appointment, at which time Ms. Newton was cleared to return to work. On February 5, 2013, Dr. Meddows-Jackson saw Ms. Newton again for a post-operation evaluation. Finally, Ms. Newton saw a different Mercy Clinic doctor, Dr. McBride, on June 18, 2013, for treatment.

After the appointment on February 5, 2013, Ms. Newton did not see Dr. Meddows-Jackson again until January 29, 2015, when Ms. Newton presented for a general gynecological exam. At this January 2015 appointment, Ms. Newton explained she was having difficulty conceiving, which prompted Dr. Meddows-Jackson to order diagnostic testing. The testing revealed Ms. Newton’s fallopian tubes were damaged. To treat this damage, Ms. Newton underwent a procedure by another physician. Dr. Meddows-Jackson last saw Ms. Newton on June 9, 2015, for general gynecological care.

The Newtons’ Missouri medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that Mercy Clinic and Dr. Meddows-Jackson were negligent between approximately July 16, 2012, and August 1, 2012, during Ms. Newton’s post-operative care. They also alleged that the post-operative infection resulted in Ms. Newton’s infertility and related complications, which were treated by Dr. Meddows-Jackson and Mercy Clinic doctors until 2015.

Missouri Supreme Court Opinion

The Missouri Supreme Court held: “The two-year statute of limitations set forth in section 516.105 requires all actions to be brought within two years of the date of the alleged negligence, irrespective of when the damage is discovered … the statute of limitations commences to run upon the occurrence of the act of neglect, not upon the ascertainment of the damage resulting from the wrong … If treatment for consequences resulting from medical negligence were part of the doctor’s duty of continuing care and served to toll the statute of limitations for so long as necessary to treat such consequences, then the continuing care tolling doctrine would simply be another name for the discredited discovery doctrine because the patient would not return for such treatment unless and until he or she discovered there were consequences necessitating treatment. The Court declines to stretch the continuing care tolling doctrine to that extent.”

Source Newton v. Mercy Clinic East Communities d/b/a Mercy Clinic OB/GYN, No. SC97687.

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