N.J. Court Rules HIV Diagnosis, Not AIDS, Determining Factor for Lawsuit Time Limits
A New Jersey appeals court ruled Tuesday that no legal distinction exists between HIV and AIDS when determining whether the filing of a malpractice claim falls within the state's two-year statute of limitations, the AP/Bergen Record reports. The case centers around Arthur Troum, a New Jersey physician who was diagnosed with HIV in 1987 after contracting the virus through a blood-product transfusion he received in 1984 during heart surgery at Newark Beth Israel Hospital. He developed AIDS symptoms in 1990 and died in 1993. Following the diagnosis of "full-blown AIDS" in 1990, his family filed a malpractice suit against the hospital, doctors and blood centers involved in his transfusion. A lower court judge allowed the case to continue, but the appeals court overturned this decision Tuesday and said that the malpractice case was filed too late. Judge David Baime wrote for the three-judge panel: "Plaintiff contends HIV and AIDS are separate diseases and that the injury was the onset of AIDS, not the discovery of the presence of the HIV infection. Because the medical evidence establishes that HIV and AIDS occur as a seamless progression of a single pathology, we reject plaintiff's argument that each condition is a separate and distinct illness triggering a new statute of limitations." The appeals court, however, did allow a wrongful death suit followed by the Troum family in 1994 to go forward. Attorneys for the defendants argued that the "wrongful death lawsuit was not valid without an underlying lawsuit for malpractice," but the court rejected this claim, saying that "one had nothing to do with the other" (Siegel, AP/Bergen Record, 3/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.