Legal Memorandum: Medical Negligence and Limitations Period

Issue: Under the laws of Iowa, what is the statute of limitations for bringing a cause of action against a physician, surgeon or other health care professional for negligence in treatment; and under what circumstances may the limitations period be tolled?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Medical negligence; Statute of limitations; Tolling of limitations period
Jurisdiction: Iowa
Cited Cases: 375 N.W.2d 280; 853 F.2d 1078; 894 F. Supp. 344; 384 N.W.2d 381; 533 N.W.2d 511; 439 N.W.2d 855
Cited Statutes: Iowa Code Ann. § 614.1(9)
Date: 02/01/2001

In Iowa, a cause of action founded on injuries to the person or wrongful death against any physician, surgeon, osteopath, osteopathic physician or surgeon, dentist, podiatrist, optometrist, pharmacist, chiropractor, or nurse, licensed under Chapter 147 of the Iowa Code, or a hospital licensed under Chapter 135B of the Iowa Code, must, if it arises out of patient care, be brought within two years after the date on which the claimant knew, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have known, or received notice in writing of the existence of, the injury or death, whichever date occurs first.  Iowa Code Ann. § 614.1(9) (West Supp. 1995).  However, in no event may such an action ever be brought more than six years after the date of the act, omission or occurrence that allegedly caused the injury or death, unless the injury or death was caused by unintentionally leaving a foreign object in the patient’s body.

The Iowa Supreme Court broadly construes the medical malpractice statute of limitations contained in § 614.1(9), making it applicable to a variety of different types of causes of action beyond traditional negligence by a physician.  In Langner v. Simpson, 533 N.W.2d 511 (Iowa 1995), a patient brought a malpractice action against a psychiatrist and a hospital to which the psychiatrist had the patient admitted for evaluation.  Id. at 514-15.  The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of all claims against the psychiatrist and the hospital on the ground that they were […]

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