Doctrine of Fraudulent Concealment

Date: October 13, 2010
Posted In: DLP Law

A number of patients were killed at a large city hospital by a nurse who was improperly diverting and administering medications to patients in order to kill them. The families of the patients filed suit against the hospital after the statute of limitations had run. Under normal circumstances, suits based upon negligence must be filed within two years of the last date of the negligent actions.

ISSUE: Will the families be able to get around this two year statute of limitations?

ANSWER: Yes. In Pennsylvania, there is what is called the “doctrine of fraudulent concealment.” What this doctrine stands for is that, even in this case where the hospital did not know at the time that the nurse had killed the patients, the hospital\’s act of issuing death certificates attributing the patient\’s deaths to natural causes was an affirmative act of concealment. The court explained that the administration of the hospital had an affirmative duty to inform the families of the patients when they were first aware, or had reason to be aware, that one of its employees had committed the atrocities.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.

Tom Cummings
Thomas P. Cummings has been a Partner with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP since 1996 and has been with the firm since 1991. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury cases.