Limitations Period for Med. Mal. Claims Against Fed. Gov. Subject to Tolling, Rules Tenn. Fed. Court

On November 17, in the Western District of Tennessee, Magistrate Judge Samuel H. Mays, Jr. ruled that the two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims against the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) was non-jurisdictional and subject to tolling in limited circumstances. 

The underlying litigation involved the plaintiff, Antoinette Lundy, who sued the federal government for damages under the FTCA in 2017. Lundy alleged that her minor child was harmed during delivery due to the malpractice of the federal employees at the medical facility, Christ Community Health Services, Inc. (CCHS). The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s claim must be dismissed as the FTCA has a two-year statute of limitations, which begins on the plaintiff’s date of injury in 2014. The plaintiff argued otherwise, proffering that the limitations period could be tolled in circumstances where the plaintiff lacked constructive knowledge that the limitations period applied. For Lundy, the constructive knowledge was lacking due to the plaintiff not immediately being aware that a religiously affiliated facility would not also be a federal facility, due to an initial conclusion that “CCHS would not receive federal support because of the separation of church and state.” As a result, the plaintiff averred, the statute of limitations should begin not at time of injury but at the time that plaintiff realized CCHS employees were also federal employees, thus making the FTCA limitations period applicable to her case at issue. 

The court disagreed, holding that while the statute of limitations for the FTCA could be tolled in limited circumstances, the equitable tolling required not just a lack of constructive knowledge, but also a showing of due diligence to preserve one’s legal rights (make reasonable efforts to commence litigation or file an administrative grievance) once the knowledge became known. The court ruled that while the plaintiff had actual constructive knowledge at the time of injury of the applicable limitations period, given the CCHS website clearly notated it was a federal facility, the outcome would not change if such knowledge also had not existed. Judge Mays concluded that Lundy waited 18 months after she stipulated to have gained aforementioned constructive knowledge to make efforts toward a legal resolution, which does not meet the legal standard for one being duly diligent to preserve legal rights for tolling purposes under 6th Circuit precedent. 

The plaintiff is represented by Holton Law.