Ohio Supreme Court Resolves Split in Ohio Appellate Courts: Four-Year Statute of Repose for Medical Claims Applies to Wrongful-Death Actions

By: Kristen Andrews Wilson, Dallas F. Kratzer III, Vincent Holzhall

Published: January 22, 2024

If a person is injured by medical negligence, the injured person may have a medical malpractice claim and, if the person dies, the person’s family may have a wrongful-death claim. Over time, the Ohio General Assembly passed a number of statutes of limitation governing how long one has to file a claim once medical negligence is discovered, as well as statutes of repose placing an absolute time limit on lawsuits for medical negligence, regardless of when the injury may be discovered.

The intermediate appellate courts in Ohio had arrived at different conclusions regarding whether the four-year statute of repose for “medical claims” applied (i) only to claims of medical malpractice (e.g., Tenth District), or (ii) more broadly to both medical malpractice and wrongful-death claims (e.g., Third, Fifth, and Eleventh districts).

On December 28, 2023, the Ohio Supreme Court addressed the split of authority in the intermediate appellate courts. In a 4-to-3 decision, the Supreme Court held the definition of a “medical claim” in the four-year statute of repose was broadly defined and therefore encompassed statutory wrongful-death claims.

Because the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision would have wide impact, several interested organizations filed friend-of-the-court (amicus curiae) briefs. The Ohio Association for Justice urged a narrow application to only medical malpractice claims. On the other hand, the Ohio Hospital Association, the Ohio State Medical Association, and the Ohio Osteopathic Association urged a broad application including both medical malpractice and wrongful-death claims.

The professional liability attorneys at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC have experience in guiding medical professionals through these issues. Also, our appellate attorneys have experience in representing organizations in filing friend-of-the-court briefs with appellate courts to advocate on behalf of interested organizations. For assistance or questions about this alert, please contact the authors or a member of the Professional Liability Team or Appellate Team.

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