Robert Dubose v. Quinlan, 2017 Pa. LEXIS 3125 (November 22, 2017) Mundy, J. Statute of limitations for medical professional liability cases in the form of wrongful death or survival actions is two years from the time of decedent’s death. Accordingly, the Superior Court judgment is affirmed. Date of death of this nursing home patient was October 18, 2007. The patient died from sepsis of multiple pressure sores which had occurred over a period of time.
The nursing home argued that the survival claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions which began to run at the time of the patient’s injury which was in 2005. At issue was 42 Pa. C.S. § 5524(2). It was argued by the estate of patient Dubose that even if the statute of limitations had run as to the survival action, the “discovery rule” tolled the statute of limitations. The nursing home relied upon § 513(d) of the Mcare Act, which is the statute of repose. A statute of repose places an outer limit on the right to bring a civil action. That limit is measured not from the date on which the claim accrues, but instead from the date of the last culpable act or omission of the defendant. Statute of limitations requires plaintiff to pursue “diligent prosecution of known claims.” Statutes of repose affect the legislative judgment that defendant should “be free from liability after the legislatively determined period of time.” Statutes of limitations, but not statutes of repose, are subject to equitable tolling. Statutes of repose generally may not be tolled even in cases of extraordinary circumstances beyond the plaintiff’s control. The Supreme Court held that § 513(d) declares that a survival action in a medical liability case resulting in death accrues at the time of death, not at the time of decedent’s injury. This is a crucial point of understanding for any Pennsylvania wrongful death lawyer, as § 513(d) establishes a specific statute of limitations for survival and wrongful death actions in medical professional liability cases that prevails over the general statute of limitations for personal injury actions contained in 42 Pa. C.S. § 5524(2). If the General Assembly wanted to set a statute of repose of two years from the date of decedent’s death, it could have provided for that but it did not. The survival actions were timely filed within two years of death.