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Cheever v. Southern New Hampshire Regional Medical Center (141 N.H. 589, 688 A.2d 656)

elderly-woman-New-Hampshire-elderly-abuse-nursing-home-200x300Articles: New Hampshire

Cheever v. Southern New Hampshire Regional Medical Center (141 N.H. 589, 688 A.2d 656)

CASE:
Cheever v. Southern New Hampshire Regional Medical Center (141 N.H. 589, 688 A.2d 656)
PARTIES:
Plaintiff (Appellee) – Lynne Cheever, Administrator of the Estate of Cory Cheever (deceased)]
Defendant (Appellant) – South New Hampshire Regional Medical Center, Dr. Arthur Andsell
COURT:
Supreme Court of New Hampshire (1997)
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

On March 31, 1995, Lynne Cheever filed a wrongful death claim against Southern New Hampshire Regional Health Center as well as Dr. Arthur Andsell stemming from the death of her infant son, Cory Cheever.  Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the claim is time barred by the statute of limitations. The Superior Court granted the motion. Cheever appealed.

SUMMARY OF FACTS:

In the early morning hours of April 7, 1989, Lynn Cheever, 27 weeks pregnant at the time, was admitted to Southern New Hampshire Regional Medical Center on the advice of her treating physician, Dr. Arthur Andsell.

When she arrived at the hospital Lynne was experiencing contractions, cramping and bleeding.  After being admitted, Lynne received a series of drugs in order to stop labor. The drugs were unsuccessful and Lynne delivered a child, Cory Cheever, at 5:49am. Cory died later that morning. On March 31, 1995, Lynne filed a suit alleging that both the hospital, as well as the physician were negligent in the care and treatment to Cory.

Defendants filed separate motions to dismiss, relying on RSA 556:11 (Supp.1996), which provides for a three- year statute of limitations. Plaintiff argued that the statute for a wrongful death action is six years.

OUTCOME AT TRIAL:

The trial court found for the defendants and dismissed the motions.

ISSUES ON APPEAL:

Was the trial court correct in dismissing the actions based on a three- year statute of limitations?

SUPREME COURT HOLDINGS:
Yes
RELEVANT APPLICATION OF LAW:
“The six year statute of limitations expressly provided in RSA 556:11 is negated by RSA 508. The language of RSA 556:11 referencing RSA 508 signifies that the two statutes must be read together.”

Wrongful death actions are “creatures of statute without common law origins, and survive only to the extent and in the manner provided by the legislature.”

  • Herbert v. Herbert, 120 N.H. 369, 370, 415 A.2d 679, 680 (1980)

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