Sunday, June 26, 2016
LISA R. WORTHY VS. KENNEDY HEALTH SYSTEM, ET AL. A-2698-14T1
LISA R. WORTHY VS. KENNEDY HEALTH SYSTEM, ET AL.
In this medical negligence matter, we examine whether plaintiff met the requirements of Rule 4:26-4, the fictitious party pleading rule, to save her claims from being dismissed as untimely. Plaintiff consulted counsel less than two months prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations. A complaint was filed in time, in which the illegible signatures and professional designations of unidentified defendants, as taken from hospital treatment records, were used in lieu of typed names. The signatures were placed in the caption and included in the complaint's specific allegations of negligence. Counsel's post-complaint efforts to identify all defendants included correspondence, telephone calls, motions for enforcement, special interrogatories, and depositions. The hospital did not identify those professionals for approximately fifteen months after the complaint was filed. The judge dismissed the complaint, finding identification efforts prior to its filing were insufficient. We reversed. Not only must the court consider all facts and circumstances, but also must determine whether defendant suffered prejudice from any delay, which resulted from the hospital's lapses, not plaintiff's.
We also reviewed facts supporting causation regarding another defendant, who argued despite his alleged failure to
diagnose and treat plaintiff's condition, she would not have experienced a better outcome. Concluding the judge failed to apply the proper legal standard, we reverse.