Ohio Supreme Court Rules Statute of Repose is a Hard Deadline in Medical Claims
December 29, 2020
Ohio's highest court held that medical negligence plaintiffs must pursue their claims within four years of their injury, regardless of procedural mechanisms that provide relief from the one-year statute of limitations.
On December 23, 2020, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in Wilson v. Durrani, 2020-Ohio-6827, that Ohio’s savings statute does not operate to extend the four-year statute of repose, clarifying the interplay between statutes of limitations, statutes of repose and saving statutes affecting the rights of claimants pursuing medical claims.
Ohio Revised Code 2305.113(A)—Ohio’s statute of limitations for medical claims—requires such claims to be filed no later than one year from the date the claim accrued, that is when the injury occurred or was discovered. If a filed medical claim later fails for a reason other than on the merits, the savings statute found in R.C. 2305.19(A) allows a claimant to refile their claim within one year of the date of dismissal of the first suit, even if the statute of limitations has expired. The savings statute acts as an extension of the statute of limitations, whose purpose is to ensure plaintiffs timely pursue known medical claims.
The statute of repose, found in R.C. 2305.113(C), generally holds that:
(1) No action upon a medical * * * claim shall be commenced more than four years after the occurrence of the act or omission constituting the alleged basis of the medical * * * claim.
(2) If an action upon a medical * * * claim is not commenced within four years after the occurrence of the act or omission constituting the alleged basis of the medical * * *claim, then, any action upon that claim is barred.
In contrast to the statute of limitations, the purpose of the statute of repose is to ensure that defendants are free from the fear of litigation after a certain amount of time — four years in the case of medical claims.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the savings statute, R.C. 2305.19(A) does not operate to extend the statute of repose. Therefore, if a medical claim is filed within the one-year statute of limitations and voluntarily dismissed without prejudice before trial, the claim must be refiled within four years after the act or omission giving rise to the medical claim, or the medical claim will be time barred by the statute of repose.