Lavern’s Law Fails, Leaving NY Malpractice Victims in Peril

Ava Lawson | September 8th, 2015

worried hospital patientIf it had passed, Lavern’s Law would have allowed victims of medical malpractice in New York to take legal action within 30 months after the patient discovered the negligent action, rather than the date of the medical mistake. The bill, which was endorsed by Governor Cuomo and enjoyed strong bipartisan support, never reached the floor for a final vote. Senate GOP Majority Leader John Flanagan killed the bill this summer, indicating his house will hold discussions on a broader set of reforms.

The bill was named after Lavern Wilkinson, a Brooklyn woman who died in 2013 from potentially curable lung cancer that her doctors had missed in earlier X-rays.

When Ms. Wilkinson’s daughter later attempted to file suit she was barred due to the statute of limitations that creates a strict cut-off date of two and a half years from the time of the negligent action to pursue a claim. In the U.S., 44 states have laws that enable patients to file suit from the date of discovery, while New York’s current statutes allow residents just 15 months if mistakes took place in a public hospital, or 30 months if malpractice occurred in a private or non-profit facility.

With some types of conditions and slow progressing diseases, patients may not become aware of a mistake for many years, leaving them with little recourse.

Medical errors and preventable patient deaths

More than 15 years ago, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences published the alarming results of study on medical errors in hospitals. According to researchers, some 44,000 patients die from preventable medical mistakes each year.

A more recent study illustrates the dangers faced by patients.  In 2011, the medical journal Health Affairs calculated that avoidable deaths in hospitals were likely ten times higher than previously estimated, but given these staggering numbers, very few incidents make their way to the courts. In fact, a 2013 report suggests that a mere 1 percent of medical mistakes results in a malpractice lawsuit.

Many are incredibly disheartened that Lavern’s Law wasn’t allowed by the Senate to come up for a final vote. Supporters of the legislation say the problem lies with Republican senators who feared Lavern’s Law would trigger skyrocketing New York hospital malpractice claims and insurance rates.

In a recent New York Times op-ed piece that blasts the death of Lavern’s Law, authors Thomas Moore and Steve Cohen call for more emphasis on patient safety, as well as stricter regulations by state medical licensing agencies to keep only the most qualified doctors on staff. They also argue for greater accountability, suggesting that “… top hospital administrators should be held accountable for negligence committed in their facilities. The 10 highest-paid administrators and doctors at each hospital should have a significant portion of their compensation tied to patient safety.”

NYC medical malpractice advocates in your corner

Cancer misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, just like any medical error, often comes with devastating consequences. Whether stemming from negligence, inexperience or lapses in communication, this type of mistake can claim the lives of innocent victims, and leave family members bereft of their mother, father or sibling.

Given the short window of time in which to pursue compensation, it’s vital that patients who suspect they’ve been harmed to retain a reputable attorney as soon as possible. The Sanders Firm leverages more than 40 years of experience to help victims of hospital malpractice in New York pursue justice and secure fair compensation.

Known for our integrity, diligence and results-oriented litigation, our attorneys are ready to answer your questions during a free case evaluation. Call our offices today at 1-800-FAIR-PLAY.


  1. New York Times, Cancer Patients, Lost in a Maze of Uneven Care http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/29/health/29Cancer.html

  2. Daily News, Lavern’s Law dies as state Legislature is set to finish session http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/lavern-law-dies-legislature-set-finish-session-article-1.2271841