Physician's Family Challenges Malpractice Laws

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by Liese Klein
Business New Haven

December 8, 2008

A doctor's widow is hoping to change Connecticut's laws to allow patients to sue for alleged malpractice discovered years after the fact.

Attorneys for the family of the late Stanley Saperstein, MD are expected to argue in court on December 8 that the state's rules in malpractice cases are contradictory and prevent legitimate claims from going forward.

Complaining of throat problems, Saperstein was tested at Danbury Hospital in 1999. But the hospital's pathologist missed slides clearly showing pre-cancerous cells, the suit alleges. Saperstein, a nephrologist with a practice in Ridgefield and privileges at the hospital, died of esophageal cancer in 2007. The accused pathologist, Beatriz Cuello, has since retired.

Due to the misdiagnosis, the cancer was not detected until 2005, long past the state's three-year limit on malpractice claims, says the Saperstein family's attorney, Carey Reilly of the Bridgeport office of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. The clock starts ticking as soon as the alleged malpractice occurs, Reilly says, preventing claims of past misdiagnosis.

"In this case the patent unfairness of the statute is highlighted," Reilly says. "The clock can run out without a plaintiff even knowing they've been injured."

The hospital has filed a motion to dismiss the case based on the statue of limitations.

"Regarding the noted suit, allegations are just allegations and can only be decided through due legal process, not in the court of public opinion," Danbury Hospital spokesperson Andrea Rynn said in a statement to the Danbury News-Times. "Danbury Hospital will respect and uphold the state and federal privacy laws that prohibit us from commenting on any patient's care."

Reilly says the family will appeal any dismissal and also plans to argue that Cuello may not have ever examined the slides, making the statute irrelevant.

"Under the existing malpractice statute, he had no opportunity to bring a lawsuit," Reilly says. "What happened to Dr. Saperstein can happen to anybody."