Torts II, Pages 652–654

Teeters v. Currey

Supreme Court of Tennessee, 1974

Facts:

After plaintiff gave birth to a normal child, defendant, the attending physician, recommended that she have a procedure done to prevent future pregnancies, which she had him did. Two years later she was hospitalized again and discovered to be pregnant. This child was later delivered with severe complications, and plaintiff had the same procedure done again, during which it was discovered that defendant had performed the first surgery negligently.

Defendant's Argument:

The suit falls outside the statute of limitations as the negligence occurred 3⁵⁄₁₂ years before the suit was filed, while the statute of limitations bars suits filed more than one year after the claim accrues.

Issue:

Does the statute of limitations start at the date of the injury or the date of discovery?

Judgment:

Reversed and remanded.

Reasoning:

Statutes of limitations are designed to promote stability, but their consequences can be harsh. A majority of jurisdictions have adopted the "discovery doctrine," under which the statute does not start until the injury is discovered. Some limit the application to "foreign objects," but the majority applies it to all medical malpractice cases.

Rule/Holding:

LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 654, Paragraph 2

[W]here medical malpractice is asserted to have occurred through the negligent performance of surgical procedures, the cause of action accrues and the statute of limitations commences to run when the patient discovers, or in the exercise of reasonable care and diligence for his own health and welfare, should have discovered the resulting injury.

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