If there's any caution that bears repeating to litigants (or anyone who thinks that they might ever become a litigant) it's, "Watch what you put on Facebook." The defense attorneys are going to comb through everything you've posted as far back as they need to to try to defend their client. There may be something in there that you've forgotten that could be lethal to your case. That's one of the unfortunate lessons a Pennsylvania woman learned when her recent medical malpractice lawsuit was thrown out of court. This is what you should know.
It started with a misdiagnosis.
The Pennsylvania woman was bitten by a tick sometime in 2001. She had a variety of medical problems and was eventually tested for Lyme disease—which came up negative. Eventually, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but was never convinced she had it. She lost faith in her doctors around 2008, however. Eventually, she found a nurse practitioner who suggested that she be retested for Lyme disease. In 2010, she was tested again, and the test came back positive.
She promptly took to Facebook to exclaim her relief and to record the fact that she knew she'd been right all along about having Lyme disease. And then, inexplicably, she waited to file her lawsuit for another two years, filing right on the anniversary of the date she got the confirmation of her diagnosis.
It ended with a Facebook post.
Pennsylvania has a strict 2-year statute of limitation on filing personal injury claims, which means that if you go even one day over that time limit, you're barred forever from bringing the lawsuit. Normally, the timer starts counting on the date of injury, but it isn't uncommon for the clock to be paused on medical malpractice claims until the victim knows that he or she is injured because the damage might not be known for many years. For example, someone who has a surgical instrument left inside might feel chronic pain that doctors can't find for several years until one thinks to run the right test and the tool shows up.
The defendants argued that the Pennsylvania woman had exceeded the statute of limitations, however, because she claimed to know that she'd been misdiagnosed as early as 2007. Had she filed when she received confirmation of her belief, she'd had been within the statute of limitations. Since she waited, the defense argued, she let it expire.
Their proof was in the woman's own words, in a Facebook post from 2008 where she announced her test results and said that she'd known for years that she was misdiagnosed. A friend also responded, affirming that fact—something that put her at odds with her own pleadings.
There are several lessons learned.
First, you have to be very careful what you attest to in court, because if you swear that you didn't know you were injured until a certain point, it's going to be hugely disappointing if it's proven that you knew sooner than you were willing to admit. Second, what you say on social media can come back to haunt you if you file a lawsuit—so anyone even considering it should be very careful in their choice of words. Defense attorneys routinely comb through social media posts these days looking for something that can help their case. Finally, never push the statute of limitations. None of the reports explain why the woman waited so long to file her case, but had she acted shortly after her official diagnosis, she would have had a timely case.
If you believe you've been injured, speak to an attorney as soon as possible to discuss the possibility of a claim. For more information, talk to a lawyer like those at Fitzsimmons & Vervaecke Law Firm.