New Jersey Medical Malpractice Claims
Just under 9 million people live in New Jersey, making it the 11th most populous state in the U.S. Thousands of medical malpractice cases get filed in the New Jersey court system each year. New Jersey has unique state laws and rules regarding medical malpractice claims and the rights of patients to sue their healthcare providers. Although Miller & Zois is based in Baltimore, New Jersey is one of our neighboring jurisdictions and we regularly handle New Jersey medical malpractice cases.
This page will provide potential plaintiffs with a general overview of the key parts of New Jersey's medical malpractice laws. These laws and rules are important because they can have a major impact on the value of your case and whether you have a case at all.
Under New Jersey law, any licensed health care provider can be sued for medical malpractice. This includes doctors, nurses, therapists, medical technicians, etc. It also includes corporations and healthcare facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, and urgent care providers.
The New Jersey statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases is 2-years. N.J.S.A. 2A:14-2. Medical malpractice claims in New Jersey must be filed within 2 years from the date that the "cause of action arises." New Jersey follows the so-called "discovery rule" for determining when the "cause of action arises." Under this rule, the 2 year period for filing a malpractice claim begins when the plaintiff "discovered" (or a reasonable person should have discovered) that they were injured as a result of medical negligence.
In many cases of malpractice, the injury is immediate and obvious so the 2-year period starts right away. For example, in surgical error cases where something goes wrong during an operation, the 2-year period would begin the day after the surgery. In other types of malpractice cases, such as cancer misdiagnosis, the injury and medical negligence are usually not discovered until months or years after the actual treatment or doctor visit. In these situations, the 2-year period does not begin until the misdiagnosis is later discovered.
There are at least 2 major exceptions to the general 2-year statute limitations deadline for malpractice claims in New Jersey: (1) wrongful death cases, and (2) minors. If the medical malpractice results in death, New Jersey law allows a wrongful death claim for malpractice to be filed within 2 years after the date of death - even when the limitations period on the medical malpractice has expired.
The second major exception applies when the malpractice victim is a child (under the age of 18). When the victim is a child, their 2-year time period for filing a general medical malpractice claim does not begin to run until they turn 18. If the case involves a birth injury, however, the malpractice claim must be filed before the child turns 13.New Jersey's Expert Affidavit Requirement for Medical Malpractice Cases
Under New Jersey law, a medical malpractice lawsuit cannot be filed in court unless the allegations of medical negligence are supported by an affidavit from a qualified expert (i.e., another doctor from the relevant specialty). N.J.S.A. 2A:53-27. This basically means that before you can sue a doctor for malpractice in New Jersey, you need to get another doctor to review the case and agree that medical negligence may have occurred.
This initial hurdle is designed to weed out frivolous medical malpractice cases. Getting another doctor to serve as an expert consultant and provide an affidavit supporting the claims of negligence can be difficult and time-consuming. The expert who provides the supporting affidavit must be a doctor who practices and/or is board certified in the same medical field as each defendant. This means that if you sue 3 different types of doctors, you need a separate expert affidavit for each type of doctor.
New Jersey has not enacted any significant caps or limits on the maximum amount of damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice cases. New Jersey does have a cap on punitive damages, which are limited to $350,000 or 5 times the amount of regular damages. Aside from this limit on punitive damage awards, however, there are no caps on the amount that plaintiffs can get in New Jersey medical malpractice cases.
In cases of shared fault, New Jersey follows a modern or modified comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, if the plaintiff is found to be partially at-fault for their injuries (e.g., failing to follow doctor's instructions, not getting follow-up testing, etc.), the damages award is reduced in proportion to their share of negligence. For example, if a jury finds that the plaintiff was 10% at-fault and the defendants were 90% at-fault, the plaintiff's damages will be reduced by 10%. If the total damages are $100,000, the plaintiff would only get $90,000. If the jury finds that the plaintiff was more than 50% at-fault, however, they will not be entitled to ANY damages.New Jersey Court System and Plaintiff Friendly Venues
New Jersey's civil court system is organized by county. Most of the counties in New Jersey are very plaintiff-friendly venues. This is particularly true in the northern part of the state (e.g., Sussex, Passaic, and Bergen Counties) and areas around Philadelphia (Camden and Gloucester Counties). Juries in these highly urban, politically liberal jursidictions are much more likely to find in favor of plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases and award significantly more in damages.
South Jersey is much more rural and demographically very different from the rest of the state. Even in South Jersey, however, there are only 2 counties (Cape May and Salem) that are definitively unfavorable venues for medical malpractice cases. Unlike other states, New Jersey does not have any rules limiting the plaintiff's choice of venue in medical malpractice cases. This means that malpractice cases can be filed in any county where the defendant has an office or facility. As a result, malpractice cases are rarely filed in certain counties.New Jersey Medical Malpractice Verdicts & Settlements
Below are summaries of verdicts and reported settlements in recent New Jersey medical malpractice cases. These are provided for informational purposes only. What does that trite line mean? It means you can never assume that even if you case is identical another claim that there is any guarantee of a similar result. Every single case is just so very different. Our lawyers have learned this time and time again. But we do think seeing verdicts and settlements is education to better understand the settlement value of claims.
- Estate of Scavetta v. Agresti (2020) - $1,400,000 Settlement: 66-year-old man died from liver cancer that metastasized to his colon. His family sued doctors for failure to timely diagnose his cancer by missing signs of cancer in the form of a hepatic lesion in a CT scan. This case settled for $1,400,000.
- Haney v. LoFaro (2020) $650,000 Verdict: 46-year old man went to the ER with chest and left arm pain. Electrocardiogram, chest X-ray, and a cardiac enzyme test were negative. The ER doctor diagnosed him with "atypical chest pain" and sent him home with pain medication. The following day the man suffered a heart attack and required two stent procedures and defibrillator implant surgery, reducing his life expectancy by 10 years. He sued the ER doctor and hospital for failure to diagnose. A Morris County jury awarded $650,000.
- A.M., Pro Ami v. Grencavich (2019) $1,747,505 Verdict: infant suffered a brachial plexus injury at birth. His parents alleged that the nurse-midwife's negligence was negligent in failing to properly identify and respond to shoulder dystocia, applied excessive traction, failed to offer a C-section, and failed to inform her of the risks associated with a vaginal delivery. The Atlantic County jury awarded the family $1,747,505.
- K.T., Pro Ami v. Frisoli (2018) $20,000,000 Verdict: infant girl was born with brain damage and was diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy and visual impairments. The girl's mother alleged that the physicians' failure to properly test for GALD-NH delayed her diagnosis and treatment. She claimed their buccal biopsy attempts were not adequate to test for GALD-NH. The defense denied liability. They argued that the newborn received proper care. The Union County jury awarded $20,000,000.
- Kubar v. Shore Rehabilitation (2018) $1,900,000 Verdict: 54-year-old man developed cauda equina syndrome and spinal cord compression after undergoing spinal surgery. He alleged that the hospital's negligent post-operative care caused his injuries. An Ocean County jury awarded him $1,900,000.
- Kawcynski v. Weinstein (2018) $318,800 Verdict: middle-aged woman claimed she suffered permanent injuries as a result of botched plastic surgery when surgeon deviated from standard surgical practice. Morris County jury awarded $318,000.
Our medical malpractice lawyers have a long track record of success in New Jersey medical malpractice cases. We regularly partner with local counsel in New Jersey (at no additional cost to the client, basically two lawyers for the price of one) to give you a dynamic and effective legal team. If you have a medical malpractice case in New Jersey, call our office today at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.