New Mexico court rules that prescription error lawsuit filed too late

The New Mexico Court of Appeals recently ruled that a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit based on an alleged prescription error had been filed too late. The deceased individual was prescribed a medication that allegedly interacted dangerously with another medication that he was taking. He died over a year later, and his family filed the lawsuit more than three years after the prescription was written.

A lower court claimed that the three-year statutory time limitation period began to run at the time that the individual was injured, but the appeals court ruled that the clock began to tick when the doctor wrote the prescription that allegedly contained a medication error. Since the lawsuit was filed shortly after the end of the three-year period that began with the writing of that prescription, the action alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death could not proceed.

Patient's condition allegedly caused by interaction of newly prescribed medication and a previously prescribed medication

The case of Chavez v. Delgado involves a prescription written by Dr. Delgado for Mr. Chavez on November 11, 2008. As the judgment issued by the New Mexico Court of Appeals explains, Chavez was admitted to hospital on December 8, 2008, shortly after he started to take the prescribed medication. He died in February 2010.

The family filed a lawsuit on December 1, 2011, alleging that the interaction of the prescribed medication and another medication that Chavez was taking resulted in "drug-induced rhabdomyolysis." Delgado then claimed that the action had been filed too late, but a lower court ruled that the lawsuit could proceed because the time limitation period only began when the injury to Chavez became apparent.

However, the appeals court reversed that ruling, stating that because the limitation period began when the prescription was written - which placed the filing date of the lawsuit a few weeks beyond the end of the three-year time period - the family's "claims against Dr Delgado are barred."

Court specifies that "statute of repose" (rather than "statute of limitation") relevant in this case

The appeals court specified that the time limitation relevant to this area of law is, strictly speaking, a "statute of repose" rather than a "statute of limitation." The distinction is that a statute of repose begins running when a "statutorily determined triggering event" occurs, while a statute of limitation begins "when the cause of action accrues."

That is why the time period in this case begins with the writing of the prescription rather than the manifestation of an injury.

Legal actions based on prescription errors must be filed in a timely manner

An article in the professional journal U.S. Pharmacist underlines the importance of filing legal actions related to alleged prescription errors in a timely manner, stating that the time period between the injury and the action is "crucial from both procedural and substantive perspectives." It is crucial in the first sense because, as discussed, a statute of repose applies; and it is crucial from the second perspective because memories fade and records decay over time.

If you or a loved one may have suffered harm because of a prescription error, it is imperative to engage an experienced personal injury attorney. A lawyer with relevant expertise will assess the unique facts of your case, offer valuable guidance on your legal options and provide effective representation in any legal action that is launched.