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A woman's tragic death leads to positive change in NY law

The following is the third in a series of columns by Jim Reed, managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm, regarding news of a legal nature that readers might find timely in this ever-changing world.

By Jim Reed
Managing partner
Ziff Law Firm, Elmira

Lavern Wilkinson was not forgotten after her tragic death in 2013.

Lavern died of cancer three years after a radiologist in Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn spotted a mass in her right lung and never told her about it. Her other doctors said the cancer could have been successfully treated if they were notified by the radiologist right away, but by the time it was finally diagnosed three years later, Lavern's prognosis was terminal. Tragically, it was too late for Lavern or her family to sue the negligent radiologist.

It was too late to sue because New York State's time limit (called the statute of limitations) for bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit was 2 1/2 years from the date of the alleged malpractice. In Lavern's case, the malpractice was three years before, and, therefore, already past the 2 1/2-year time limit when she and her doctors discovered there was an error by the radiologist.

Lavern and her family had no legal remedy, even though Lavern had no way of knowing that the radiologist had made an error three years previously.

Fortunately for cancer patients in New York State, lawmakers in Albany were shaken by Lavern's story and passed Lavern's Law, which changes how the statute of limitations -- ONLY in cancer cases -- is calculated. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law a few weeks ago.

Under the old law, the 2 1/2-year time limit began running when the malpractice actually occurred.

Under the new law, called Lavern's Law, the 2 1/2-year time limit does not begin to run until the patient discovers that malpractice has occurred, or when the patient "knows or reasonably should have known" that there was malpractice, according to the law.

When Gov. Cuomo signed it into law, he said: "No one should have to go through what Lavern Wilkinson and her family did, and this agreement will help protect cancer patients and their loved ones, while addressing concerns from the medical field."

Here is why I am telling my neighbors in Schuyler County about this important new law:

If you or someone you know has suffered a misdiagnosis, or a diagnosis was missed, and they are now battling cancer -- and it's been less than 2 1/2years since that person discovered they were wrongly diagnosed or they were never told -- that person may want to meet with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to discuss their legal options.

If you have any questions about this new law, please feel free to email me at

Thanks for reading!



To see Jim Reed's first column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's second column, click here.

© The Odessa File 2018
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869