(Adapted from ASPS Advocacy Matters - June 2017)
The New York State Society of Plastic Surgeons (NYSSPS) and ASPS have faced an uphill battle against legislation that would establish a ten-year statute of limitations on the date of discovery for medical liability cases. The legislation would have a direct and detrimental impact on New York's physicians and would reverse critical reforms originally put in place to remedy the malpractice crisis the state experienced in the 1970's and 1980's.
Towards the conclusion of the 2015 legislative session, the New York State Assembly demonstrated the legitimacy of this measure when it passed the bill on a vote of 96 to 24. In January 2016, both houses reintroduced the legislation and all signs indicated that the bill would pass last year. NYSSPS and ASPS conducted extensive advocacy against the proposal and were active partners in a coalition that opposed this legislation. After countless hours of advocacy, the legislation was stopped and died at the end of session.
The measure resurfaced in 2017, NYSSPS and ASPS once again reacted. Together, they conducted two grassroots initiatives to mobilize plastic surgeons in New York. The societies also wrote to the New York State Assembly Codes Committee urging members to oppose the date of discovery rule change, as well as to the full Assembly at large encouraging the body to oppose a series of harmful liability bills. The New York State Society of Plastic Surgeons placed further pressure on their state legislators when they advocated against the bill in-person at the state house in May. The state legislative session recessed on June 21, but last minute maneuvering resulted in a deal being cut and the legislation passing. The bill now await consideration by Governor Cuomo.
In the end, the application of the new date of discovery statute of limitations will be seven years instead of the originally-proposed ten. Additionally, it will only apply to medical cases involving cancers and malignant tumors. While touted as a compromise, this measure will undermine the medical liability environment in New York for any specialist who provides care within the cancer team, including plastic surgeons.