Malpractice Case Sparks Change in Washington Law

When he was 9 years old, Jaryd Schroeder was taken to the hospital for a variety of painful symptoms. He suffered from double vision, headaches, dizziness and weakness in his legs. He was examined by a doctor at a Richland radiology clinic; the MRI test showed that everything was normal.

After another eight years of suffering the same symptoms, Schroeder had another MRI. This time, he had it done elsewhere, and the test revealed that his brain was protruding into his spinal canal.

On the eve of his 19th birthday, Schroeder brought a medical malpractice suit against the Richland clinic and Dr. Steve Weighall.

The case quickly became something much bigger.

The Case of RCW 4.16.190(2)

This one case of suspected medical malpractice will have an impact on many future cases thanks to a peculiar exemption in Washington state law. Section RCW 4.16.190(2) states that cases of medical malpractice occurring during childhood cannot be pursued past the five-year statute of limitations.

The strange thing about this exemption is that it does not apply to all cases of medical malpractice, nor does it apply to all cases where personal injury occurred during childhood. In all other situations, the statute of limitations can be delayed if circumstances do not allow for the case to come immediately to trial.

For these very particular cases, the rationale seems to be that this exemption protects against exorbitant costs of medical malpractice insurance by preventing stale claims from being constantly dragged up. This, at least, was the argument on behalf of the defendants.

But Schroeder’s lawyers argued that the statute offers favoritism to health care providers and medical malpractice insurance companies while denying justice to citizens who depended on others—parents, caregivers, the state itself—at the time their injury took place.

‘A Disproportionate Burden’

The supreme court of Washington State ended up ruling in favor of reviving Jaryd Schroeder’s case against the clinic.

Moreover, they voted 7-2 to change the exemption, ruling that it was unconstitutional by state law. The exemption, they ruled, violates the state’s “privileges and immunities” clause by denying certain rights to a certain class of people that are allowed to everyone else.

“It is important,” the court stated, “to protect children from harm when laws are passed to solely benefit the financial interest of the privileged class of health care providers.”

The two dissenting votes came from Justices Susan Owens and James Johnson.

In defense of the ruling, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud wrote:

“The law places a disproportionate burden on the child whose parent or guardian lacks the knowledge or incentive to pursue a claim on his or her behalf. …Statutes analogous to [the law in question] have the greatest impact on children in the foster care system, children whose parents are themselves minors, and children whose parents are simply unconcerned.”

Get the Help You Need

If you have suffered from medical malpractice, you need the help of attorneys well-versed in Washington State Law. Let our team at Perey Law advocate for your rights, and help you get the resources you need to recover. Contact us at (206) 443-7600 or fill out the form on the right side of this page today.

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