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MEDICAL MALPRACTICE (Retained Foreign Object)

The typical statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in California is three (3) years from the date of the injury or one (1) year after the injured party knew or should have known of the existence of the malpractice, whichever is the earlier of the two. There are exceptions to the statute of limitations for events constituting fraud, intentional concealment, or the presence of non-therapeutic foreign objects or foreign bodies. As to foreign objects improperly left in the body, the one (1) year after discovery rule applies, even if it is not discovered within the three (3) year upper time limit.

What is a retained foreign object? This term generally refers to some type of foreign material left inside a patient’s body after an operation. In most instances, the “foreign object” is a surgical sponge left inside the body. To constitute a “retained foreign object,” the item must not have any therapeutic purpose, that meaning the object or device was not related to healing or restoring the patient’s health.

Any case involving retained surgical objects likely constitute medical malpractice. The retained object can cause pain, infection, or often internal damage. A subsequent surgical intervention is necessitated in a majority of “retained” object cases, with death a rare occurrence. Most larger hospitals now employ tracking systems for surgical objects, but sometimes items are missed. Hospitals have a duty and responsibility to protect their patients from any unnecessary harm and leaving a “foreign object” in the body after surgery is a breach of that duty and constitutes malpractice.

If you have experienced what many refer to as a “never event,” i.e. – – it should never happen (which includes a foreign body left in a patient after surgery), contact Heiting & Irwin. Our attorneys are experienced litigators and trial attorneys and will provide a no obligation consultation regarding your claim.


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