Is Duration of Statutes of Limitation In Medical Malpractice Cases ''Potentially Unlimited'' ?
In Anderson v. Wagner, 79 Ill. 2d 295, 311, 402 N.E.2d 560, 37 Ill. Dec. 558 (1979), the supreme court addressed the legislature's response to judicial expansion of the discovery rule, which had undermined the medical malpractice statute of limitations by creating a tolling provision of potentially unlimited duration.
The court held that the-then four-year medical malpractice statute of repose provided due process to a potential plaintiff:
"'Any statute of limitations will eventually operate to bar a remedy and the time within which a claim should be asserted is a matter of public policy, the determination of which lies almost exclusively in the legislative domain, and the decision of the General Assembly in that regard will not be interfered with by the courts in the absence of palpable error in the exercise of the legislative judgment.'" Anderson, 79 Ill. 2d at 311, quoting Owen v. Wilson, 260 Ark. 21, 24-25, 537 S.W.2d 543, 545 (1976).
The supreme court in Best v. Taylor Machine Works, 179 Ill. 2d 367, 401, 689 N.E.2d 1057, 228 Ill. Dec. 636 (1997), stated:
"Under the discovery rule, a cause of action accrued when a person learned of his injury or reasonably should have learned of it.
Because the discovery rule came to be applied extensively in medical malpractice cases, statutes of limitation in existence no longer provided repose for malpractice defendants.
The discovery rule was perceived to be partly responsible for the medical malpractice crisis because it created a 'long tail' of liability for medical malpractice defendants.
Thus, the statute of limitations provision at issue in Anderson was enacted to place an outside limit on the applicability of the discovery rule to physicians and hospitals."