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Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Case Statute of Limitations

On April 10, 2013, the Iowa Court of Appeals, affirmed the trial court's dismissal of a Plaintiff's wrongful death case in a medical malpractice lawsuit for failing to file the suit in the name of the proper plaintiff before the two year statute of limitations had run. In Lightfoot et al. v. Catholic Health Initiatives, et al., the Plaintiff filed the wrongful death action, allegedly caused by negligent medical treatment, in the name of the surviving spouse rather than in the name of the administrator of the decedent's estate.  While the initial lawsuit naming the surviving spouse was timely filed, it was subject to dismissal as the surviving spouse was not the proper party. Rather, the Court of Appeals held that the proper plaintiff was the administrator of the decedent's estate.  Since the administrator of the estate was not appointed until after the two year statute of limitations had run, the trial court properly dismissed the case.  In so ruling, the Court of Appeals affirmed that the two year statute of limitations in wrongful death cases caused by medical malpractice begins to run from the date on which the plaintiff learns of the death. The court rejected Plaintiff's argument that the statute of limitations should only begin to run from the date the Plaintiff learned of the cause of the wrongful death. This case illustrates the importance of naming the proper party as well as the importance of filing a wrongful death lawsuit caused by medical negligence within two years of learning of the death. It also illustrates the importance of seeking legal advice from a law firm experienced in prosecuting medical negligence cases.

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