Moving a Bedridden Patient in Order to Change the Sheets Classifies as “Medical Treatment” under Ohio’s Statute of Limitations for Medical Claims

Posted on August 30th, 2016 by sutteroconnell

In Ohio, all medical claims are subject to a one-year statute of limitations.   A “medical claim” – as defined by R.C. 2305.113(E)(3) – is “any claim that is asserted…against a physician, podiatrist, hospital, home, or residential facility…or against a licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, advanced practice registered nurse…and that arises out of the medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of any person”.  Medical claims include claims resulting from “acts or omissions in providing medical care”.  R.C. 2305.113(E)(3).

When determining the applicable limitations period, courts must first determine whether the plaintiff pled a “medical claim”.   The primary question is, do the alleged negligent acts arise from the patient’s diagnosis, medical care, or medical treatment?

The Seventh District Ohio Court recently confronted this issue in Haskins v. 7112 Columbia, Inc., 2016-Ohio-5575. The plaintiff, Minnie Haskins, was a bedridden patient who weighed 300-400 pounds.  The injury occurred when two nursing assistants were changing her sheets.   This required both nurses to “turn” Minnie in the bed.   During this maneuver, the nurses were allegedly too forceful and broke Minnie’s leg.  The plaintiffs filed a negligence action against the nursing home and the two nursing assistants.

The complaint was not filed within the one-year limitations period applicable to “medical claims”. Therefore, the plaintiffs had to argue that they pled a claim for “ordinary negligence” – which is governed by a two-year statute of limitations – and not a “medical claim”.   According to the plaintiffs, the act of moving Minnie to change her sheets did not arise from medical treatment, was not a medical diagnosis, and was not a part of Minnie’s care plan.

The trial court disagreed. The record revealed  repositioning Minnie and changing Minnie’s sheets were essential parts of her care plan.  Minnie was bedridden and could not get out of bed on her own.   And she suffered from several serious health issues including heart disease, obesity, and incontinence.  Minnie was totally dependent upon the medical staff and had no bowel or bladder control.  If Minnie had a bowel movement,  the staff had to clean her, assess her for skin breakdowns, and reposition her.   These steps were also taken to prevent infection.  Since repositioning Minnie required help from qualified medical staff, the trial court determined that the plaintiffs pled a “medical claim”.  Case dismissed.

The Seventh District affirmed. The Court recognized that moving a patient is often “an inherently necessary part” of medical treatment.  Whether in preparation of a procedure or to change bed linens, medical staff must exercise “a certain amount of professional expertise” when transporting, moving, or manipulating a patient.  The same was true for Minnie’s nursing assistants.  Repositioning Minnie was a necessary part of Minnie’s care plan.   And because the plaintiffs claimed that the nurses repositioned Minnie in a negligent fashion, the plaintiffs’ claim was “medical” in nature and, therefore, was subject to the one-year statute of limitations.