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Mistakenly named hospital can’t be brought back into suit

Scott Lauck//June 24, 2020

Mistakenly named hospital can’t be brought back into suit

Scott Lauck//June 24, 2020

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled June 16 that a Joplin hospital can’t be added to a lawsuit after the statute of limitations had run, even though it mistakenly had been named as a defendant at one point in the suit.

The 2013 suit originally named Mercy Hospital Joplin as the employer of a surgeon alleged to have negligently caused the death of Gladys Walker when removing her gallbladder in 2011. In 2016, long after the three-year statute of limitations for wrongful-death causes of action ended, the plaintiffs learned that the surgeon’s actual employer was a separate entity, Mercy Clinic Joplin.

The plaintiffs successfully substituted the clinic for the hospital, but then they sought to keep Mercy Clinic as a defendant while adding Mercy Hospital back to the suit as a separate defendant.

Under the statute of limitations’ “savings clause,” plaintiffs who “suffer a nonsuit” can refile their cases within one year. Last year, the Court of Appeals Southern District said the hospital’s dismissal counted as a nonsuit. The Supreme Court disagreed, saying “the proper substitution of a party is not the commencement of a new suit but a continuation of the old one.”

“Said differently, the action against the initially named Mercy Hospital was not dismissed or terminated; it proceeded, just against the proper defendant, which was substituted for the incorrectly sued Mercy Hospital,” Judge Laura Denvir Stith wrote.

The case is Sofia et al. v. Dodson et al., SC97854.

RELATED: Hospital was wrong party to suit, until it wasn’t

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