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Runstrom v. Allen (345 Mont. 314, 191 P.3d 410)

Montana-nursing-home-neglect-elderly-man-237x300Articles: Montana

Runstrom v. Allen (345 Mont. 314, 191 P.3d 410)

CASE:
Runstrom v. Allen (345 Mont. 314, 191 P.3d 410)
PARTIES:
Plaintiff (Appellee) – Ed Runstrom, personal representative of the estate of Richard Runstrom (Deceased)
Defendant (Appellant) – Jake Allen, M.D.
COURT:
Supreme Court of Montana (2008)
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

On July 30, 2004, Plaintiff initiated a proceeding with the Montana Medical Legal Panel (MMLP) stemming from the death of their son. That proceeding ended in April of 2005, and in May of 2005 Plaintiff sued Benefis Healthcare, Inc. and Dr. Allen, asserting wrongful death and survival medical malpractice. Both defendants moved for summary judgment on statute of limitations grounds. The district court granted both defendants’ motions. Plaintiff appealed. The appeal was limited to the judgment in Dr. Allen’s favor.

SUMMARY OF FACTS:

On August 3, 2000 Richard Runstrom sustained a broken femur in an all- terrain vehicle accident. He was taken by ambulance to Benefis Healthcare, Inc. Dr. Allen was the trauma surgeon on call at the time of Richard’s admittance to the hospital.

Richard died the next day, August 4, 2000, at the age of 16. On the day of Richard’s death, his father, Ed (Plaintiff), confronted Dr. Allen and requested an autopsy on Richard.  In the following weeks, Ed received the autopsy report as well as Richard’s medical records and consulted with attorneys. He took no further action at that time.

On February 13, 2004, Ed saw an article in the local newspaper reporting on an administrative proceeding regarding Dr. Allen a peer reviewer’s report that referenced some of Dr. Allen’s patients whose names had not been released. Ed believed Richard was one of the unnamed patients and he obtained documents associated with the administrative proceeding.

OUTCOME AT TRIAL:

The district court dismissed plaintiff’s suit finding that it was barred by the three year statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims.

ISSUES ON APPEAL:

1)     Since Richard was a minor at the time of his death, did the court err in not allowing the tolling of the statute of limitations until three years from (what would have been) his eighteenth birthday?

2)     Did the court err by not allowing Plaintiff to assert the discovery rule from when they learned of the administrative proceeding?

SUPREME COURT HOLDINGS:

1)     No

2)     No

RELEVANT APPLICATION OF LAW:
Minority tolling does not apply to the time after the minor dies when a non- minor (Ed in this case) is the “person entitled to bring” the survival action.

  • § 27-2-401(1) MCA

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