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Claim against Quest Diagnostics for Misreading a tissue Sample Involves Medical Malpractice Not Ordinary Negligence

An appeals court has held that a claim against Quest Diagnostics for misreading a pap smear tissue sample sounded in medical malpractice, not ordinary negligence.  The ruling, in Annuziata v. Quest Diagnostics, resulted in the dismissal of plaintiff’s case because it was not brought within the 2 ½ year time limitation applicable to a medical malpractice claim.  Believing that the claim sounded in ordinary negligence, the plaintiff thought that she had 3 years to file suit.  The court reasoned that because reading a tissue sample bears a substantial relationship to the rendition of medical treatment, any claim for negligence arising out of the rendition of such services necessarily sounds in malpractice.  The court said that these services also included any negligence associated with Quest’s failure to employ a plan for error reduction, and to provide better supervision of quality assurance.

The decision points up the difficulty of distinguishing sometimes between acts of malpractice versus acts of ordinary negligence.  For example, a hospital’s failure to order the use of bed rails for a patient at risk of falling out of bed would be malpractice, but the failure of a nurse to put up the rails, as ordered, would be ordinary negligence.  Consequently, claims arising out of the two omissions would be subject to different time limitations.

If you or someone close to you is considering bringing a claim that might involve different time limitations, depending on whether the claim sounded in malpractice or ordinary negligence, make sure to consult an attorney experienced in such matters, such as the attorneys at Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson.

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