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The reasonable diligence standard required by the discovery rule is objective and only looks to what a person might have known by exercising reasonable diligence.

April 1, 2019
Nicolaou v. Martin, 195 A.3d 880 (Pa. Oct. 17, 2018)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was faced with the issue of whether the plaintiff satisfied the discovery rule as to toll the running of the statute of limitations in her medical malpractice action. The plaintiff had been bitten by a tick and began experiencing multiple symptoms. Her treating physician ran four different tests to test for Lyme disease, all of which were negative. The plaintiff opted not to undergo a fifth test for Lyme disease due to financial reasons. She was ultimately diagnosed with Lyme disease.

The trial court granted summary judgement in favor of the defendants and rejected the plaintiff’s argument that her inability to pay for additional testing tolled the statute of limitations. This decision was upheld by the Superior Court.

The Supreme Court reversed this decision, citing that the reasonable diligence standard required by the discovery rule is objective and only looks to what a person might have known by exercising reasonable diligence. Given the fact-intensive nature of this standard, it is ordinarily a question for the jury. Therefore, since there were disputed facts present, it was impermissible to dismiss the case via summary judgment. Regarding the issue of how the plaintiff’s ability to pay for a diagnostic procedure plays into this decision, the court held that financial cost is a permissible factor to consider in determining whether a plaintiff exercised reasonable diligence. A jury looks to whether a reasonable person confronted with the same circumstances, both financial and otherwise, would have deemed the additional cost in pursing diagnostic testing as prohibitive. 


Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2019

Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. Copyright © 2019 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.

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