problems including scars and permanent damage to her voice, circulatory system and respiratory system.
Defendants' summary judgment motion is based upon Pennsylvania's two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5524(2). Plaintiffs contend, in opposition, that although the alleged acts of medical malpractice occurred in 1981, their action is timely due to the combined operation of Pennsylvania's "discovery rule" and 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5533, which was amended on May 30, 1984 to include a minority tolling provision.
Pennsylvania's discovery rule applies to cases in which an injured person is unable, "despite the exercise of diligence, to determine the injury or its cause." Pocono International Raceway, Inc. v. Pocono Produce, Inc., 503 Pa. 80, 468 A.2d 468, 471 (1983). The rule provides that "'the statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff knows or reasonably should know: (1) that he has been injured, and (2) that his injury has been caused by another party's conduct.'" Cowgill v. Raymark Industries, 780 F.2d 324, 330 (3d Cir. 1985) (quoting Pastierik v. Duquesne Light Co., 341 Pa. Super. 329, 330, 491 A.2d 841, 842 (1985), appeal granted, 505 A.2d 254 (Pa. 1986)); Burnside v. Abbott Laboratories, 351 Pa. Super. 264, 505 A.2d 973, 987 (Pa. Super. 1985).
Plaintiffs claim they first learned in December of 1983, from Dr. Norman Sissman, that Charissa's heart condition should have been diagnosed earlier. Plaintiffs' own testimony, however, demonstrates that they possessed the necessary information not later than June of 1981, when Charissa was discharged from the hospital. Joanne Orozco testified at a deposition that Charissa, during her hospital stay, suffered from vein problems, paralysis of the right hand, ventilator dependency, exposure to radioactive substances and viruses. When Charissa was discharged, she had an abnormal breathing pattern and obvious scars from a stomach operation. Deposition of Joanne Orozco at 38-39, 61-62 (Nov. 18, 1985). Plaintiffs' memorandum of law states that some of Charissa's injuries were not immediately manifest. Joanne Orozco, however, acknowledged that the effects of Charissa's medical treatment were all apparent to the plaintiffs when she was discharged. Id. at 63. In any event, once the statute of limitations begins to run on an injury claim it also runs with respect to related injuries arising from the same negligent conduct, even if the related injuries are not immediately ascertainable. Cathcart v. Keene Industrial Insulation, 324 Pa. Super. 123, 471 A.2d 493, 507 (1984); Shadle v. Pearce, 287 Pa. Super. 436, 430 A.2d 683, 685-86 (1981).
Plaintiffs also knew or reasonably should have known of the cause of Charissa's ailments. Joanne Orozco testified that the doctors kept plaintiffs informed on a day to day basis of Charissa's condition and the complications which arose from her treatment. Deposition of Joanne Orozco at 32, 38-39. Until March 5, 1981 defendants had assured plaintiffs that Charissa's heart looked fine. On March 5, her heart problem was diagnosed and, after corrective surgery on March 6, her condition began to improve. Joanne Orozco acknowledged that Charissa's respiratory problems had been caused by patent ductus arteriosus rather than by a lung condition, and that plaintiffs had been so informed immediately after the diagnosis. Id. at 26-31. Plaintiffs recognized that Charissa's prior treatment, in particular the stomach operation, had not helped her. Id. at 32-36. Finally, Joanne Orozco acknowledged that the doctors themselves raised questions concerning the delay in diagnosis:
ALLAN STARR: When you were told that patent ductus arteriosus was diagnosed and that surgery would be performed, did you have any concern or question to the physicians as to why that diagnosis hadn't been made sooner?