Many people in Delaware have heard horror stories about surgeons leaving objects behind inside patients, such as sponges and medical instruments. Some of those people might not believe that it is possible, but the unfortunate truth is that these types of surgical errors do occur. In fact, an out-of-state appeals court recently entered a ruling regarding a case in which a surgical sponge was left inside a patient for nearly eight years.
In 2003, the man underwent heart surgery. The surgical team conducted a sponge count at the end of the procedure to be sure that all of them were accounted for in accordance with procedure. Records indicate that 40 sponges were used but only 39 were counted. The surgeon allegedly looked inside the patient for the sponge but could not find it and neither could an X-ray.
The sponge was reportedly found in an X-ray in 2011 -- nearly eight years later -- when the man went to the hospital complaining of pain. He subsequently had surgery to remove it, and, in 2012, he sued the hospital, among others. The defendants claimed that the statute of limitations had expired since the procedure took place in 2003 and no fraud was committed by any of the defendants at the time. The question regarding the statute of limitations made it to the Michigan Court of Appeals, and the court ruled that the case could go forward.
There are instances in which the statute of limitations can be extended for civil actions, such as medical malpractice cases. If a Delaware resident believes that he or she is the victim of -- or lost a loved one to -- surgical errors that were not discovered for an extended period of time, that might not preclude the filing of a lawsuit based on the fact that the statute of limitations might have passed. There are exceptions to nearly every rule in civil law, and an individual will never know if his or her case falls into that exception unless he or she asks.
Source: mlive.com, "Surgical sponge left near man's heart for 8 years leads to lengthy lawsuit", Bob Johnson, March 7, 2016