What is the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Montana?
Montana lawmakers have passed a statute of limitations that applies specifically to medical malpractice lawsuits filed in the state. But first, in case you aren’t fluent in the language of “legalese,” a statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after you have suffered some type of loss or harm, such as an injury caused by a health care professional’s negligence.
Montana’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits is codified at Montana Code section 27-2-205, and it currently declares that this kind of case must be filed in the state’s civil court system “within two years after the date of injury or within two years after the plaintiff discovers or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered the injury, whichever occurs last.”
(Editor's note: According to Montana Code Annotated section 27-2-205, this two-year deadline applies to any medical malpractice lawsuit filed in Montana's courts before June 30, 2019. For Montana medical malpractice lawsuits filed on or after July 1, 2019, a three-year deadline will apply, subject to the same rules and exceptions discussed below.)
Keep in mind that if you are relying on the so-called “discovery” exception in Montana, as the plaintiff you have the burden of proving that you did not discover right away that the malpractice occurred, and that you could not have reasonably discovered the malpractice until you actually did.
There is a larger catch-all filing deadline for medical malpractice lawsuits in Montana, which says “in no case may an action be commenced after five years from the date of injury.” So, no lawsuit can be filed if more than five years have passed since the alleged medical error was committed, regardless of whether the patient knew or should have known that he or she was harmed by it.
One final note, the statute of limitations will be “tolled” (will stop running, in other words) for any period during which the defendant knew, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have known, that malpractice was committed, but failed to disclose it to the plaintiff. The over-arching five-year deadline does not apply to these kinds of cases.
What happens if Montana’s statute of limitations deadline has passed, and you try to file your lawsuit anyway? It’s a safe bet that the doctor or health care facility you’re trying to sue will ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court will grant the request. If that happens, that will be the end of your lawsuit. Learn more about the Statute of Limitations in a Medical Malpractice Case.
by: David Goguen, J.D.