Rickerson v. Karl – South Carolina Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Technicalities

Before a doctor can prescribe medication, he or she must understand well the patient’s condition, as well as know any other medicine the patient may be taking in order to avoid potentially perilous complications or drug interactions. A doctor must also ensure patient is advised of possible risks so he or she is able to make an informed decision.
When a doctor does not abide by this duty to inform the patient of a possible risk, side effect or dangerous drug interaction, it is the doctor who is liable for any injuries or illnesses that result. A doctor may also be liable for prescribing the wrong medication, the wrong dosage or medications that should not be mixed with the patient’s existing prescriptions.

In the recent South Carolina Court of Appeals case of Rickerson v.Karl, patient alleged he was severely sickened after a doctor prescribed medication to him that negatively interacted with medication he was already taking and which had been prescribed to him by other physicians.

What must be taken into account in these cases are the strict statutory requirements, which are more stringent than for those in general injury cases. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in South Carolina is three years from the date of injury/illness, or in some cases from when the cause of injury/illness became known or was knowable.

Expert witness testimony in medical malpractice lawsuits is essential, and a case will not prevail without at least one.

Section 15-79-120 of South Carolina Code holds that parties to medical malpractice action in this state must first be brought through mediation.

Further, Section 15-79-125 spells out strict “Notice of Intent to File Suit” as a prerequisite to filing the action.

Even a strong case outlining a doctor’s negligence in prescribing medication will not succeed if these statutory requirements are not met.

In Rickerson, patient alleged his physician negligently prescribed an antibiotic to him that negatively interacted with medication he was previously prescribed. The result, he alleged, were complications that included bleeding and renal failure. He had to be hospitalized in order to receive intensive treatment to get well.

He filed his notice of intent pursuant to the statute that requires a mediation conference within 120 days of when the notice of intent is served. However, in his filing, plaintiff did not specifically indicate the case was subject to mandatory mediation and neither did he fill in the name of a mediator.

Over the course of the next several months, defendant made numerous request for medical records, which plaintiff authorized, and there were several other interactions. But at no point did anyone discuss mediation – until, of course, those 120 days were up. At that point, defense filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that plaintiff had not complied with the statute.

Plaintiff re-filed the notice of intent, with the proper statement and indicating a mediator, even in spite of the pending motion.

Trial court concurred and dismissed with prejudice, meaning he couldn’t re-file the case.

Plaintiff appealed, however, and the South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed, finding the sanction of dismissal was not warranted in this case because plaintiff’s failure to include this information was not a display of bad faith and such sanctions are increasingly being held by courts to be “too severe” for technical violations.

That means plaintiff will be allowed to proceed with this case. Still, this ordeal shows how a simple oversight can throw a major kink in a case. It’s imperative to hire an experienced injury lawyer to avoid such headaches.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Rickerson v.Karl, April 1, 2015, South Carolina Court of Appeals

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Holdaway v. Broumlin’s Supermarket – Automatic Door Failure Injury, June 7, 2015, Greenville Personal Injury Lawyer

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