BOISE – The clock on the statute of limitations for malpractice lawsuits does not begin running until a patient suffers harm from negligent care, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The decision came in a lawsuit brought against a doctor by a husband and wife who claimed negligent care caused the woman’s eventual blindness.
Dr. John Sonntag performed cataract surgery on Lynda Conway on Oct. 5, 1999, puncturing her lens capsule during the procedure, according to court records.
The puncture allegedly caused Conway to suffer increased intraocular pressure.
Although the doctor treated her with medication until 2000, she ultimately lost her sight when the continued pressure destroyed her optic nerve.
Conway and her husband, James Conway, sued Sonntag on March 20, 2002, claiming the doctor was negligent both when he punctured Conway’s lens capsule and when he provided treatment following the operation.
But 4th District Judge Ronald Wilper dismissed the first count, saying the two-year statute of limitations had run out since the surgery.
Wilper also issued a summary judgment in Sonntag’s favor on the second count, saying that Conway’s ultimate blindness were consequences of the surgery and that damage to her sight was ascertainable two weeks after the procedure — meaning the statute of limitations on that count had expired as well.
But the Idaho Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the statute of limitations on the second count had not run out.
“Dr. Sonntag initially treated the elevated intraocular pressure in Lynda Conway’s left eye with medication. There is no expert testimony indicating that such initial treatment fell below the applicable standard of care. Rather, the alleged malpractice was failing to take alternative measures after the initial treatment proved ineffective,” Judge Daniel Eismann wrote.
Messages were left Monday evening by the Associated Press for the Conways at their home, at Sonntag’s office and with their attorneys.
The messages seeking comment were not immediately returned.
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