Court reviews repeated errors by treater and resulting statute of limitations
Kathleen Hoard sued her dentist, Mark Stevenson, after he repeatedly mis-diagnosed the cancer in her mouth as "large bilateral mandibular tori." Hoard treated with Stevenson from 2007 until 2012 when she was properly diagnosed and appropriate treatment commenced with "multiple surgeries, grafting, and reconstruction." Stevenson argued that an amended statute and new decisions by the insurance-oriented Michigan Supreme Court rendered Hoard's claim void before she actually discovered her diagnosis. In the alternative, he argued that as a matter of law, she "reasonably should have discovered" his malpractice when he recommended in 2011 that she consult with a surgeon to "shave" the tori. The trial judge bought in and granted summary disposition.
On appeal, Hoard pointed to the repeated misdiagnoses and explained that she did not seek specialist help in 2011 because she and the dentist had already lived with what she thought was a minor problem for four years: she argued that it was a question for the jury to decide whether she was reasonable, under the circumstances, in not immediately consulting the surgeon to "shave" the mis-diagnosed lesion. The Court agreed, noting substantial support in her dental records.
The Court further held that, while Hoard's claim for malpractice at early visits might be stale--because the treatment plan went back to 2007--she was timely in filing a claim based on her 2010 visit. In 2010, circumstances involving the lesion had changed sufficiently that it was factually arguable that the dentist committed a distinct act of malpractice when he failed to change his treatment plan in response to new findings.