UPDATE: Pa. Supreme Court Issues Decision in Nicolaou v. Martin

Last Updated: Oct 25, 2018

gavel_stethoscope_law_legal-articleThe Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued a decision in the case of Nicolaou v. Martin et al.

The case of Nicolaou v. Martin concerned whether a plaintiff, Mrs. Nicolaou, knew or should have reasonably known that her Lyme disease had been misdiagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) before a February 2010 diagnostic exam confirmed that she had Lyme disease. Social media posts by Mrs. Nicolaou indicate that she knew she had Lyme disease sometime before February 2010. Click here for PAMED’s full summary of the case.

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for professional liability suits—the Discovery Rule—allows plaintiffs to bring a medical liability suit within two-years from the date they discovered or should have reasonably discovered their injury. If Mrs. Nicolaou knew or should have reasonably discovered that she had been misdiagnosed before February 2010, the medical liability suit she brought against her former medical providers in February 2012 would be barred under state law.  

In light of the facts presented, the trial court decided as a matter of law (i.e., without a jury’s consideration) that Mrs. Nicolaou’s lawsuit was not filed within the statute of limitations and, as a result, granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant medical providers.

Mrs. Nicolaou then appealed to the Superior Court. The Superior Court then also ruled in favor of the defendants and held, noting Mrs. Nicolaou’s social media posts, that Mrs. Nicolaou knew that she had Lyme disease sometime before her February 2010 diagnostic test confirmed it.

Mrs. Nicolaou subsequently appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. On Oct. 17, 2018, the Supreme Court issued its decision. The Supreme Court held that whether a person in Mrs. Nicolaou’s position should have known that she had been misdiagnosed with MS prior to her February 2010 diagnosis with Lyme disease and whether Mrs. Nicolaou had acted reasonably in delaying medical testing are questions for a jury to decide. To reach this conclusion, the Court relied on precedent holding that factual issues pertaining to a plaintiff’s notice and diligence are decisions for a jury.    

The Supreme Court’s decision reverses the order of summary judgment granted by the trial court and vacates the Superior Court’s decision. The case will now return to the trial court where a jury will decide when Mrs. Nicolaou knew or should have known that she had been misdiagnosed.

PAMED will continue to monitor developments with this case and share all updates with members.

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  1. John Fornace | Oct 25, 2018
    Unfortunately most cases are never won even if certain courts favor the plaintiff or even if trial by jury favor the defendant. The cases always go to higher courts or appeal. The likely best next step in this case is to settle.

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