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Court extends limitation period for woman to sue hospital 22 years after sister’s death

A Central Queensland woman has been granted Supreme Court approval to continue an action for damages against the Mackay Base Hospital for personal injuries arising from negligence over the death of her baby sister 22 years-ago.

Rockhampton Supreme Court Justice Graeme Crow last week granted Ellie Ann Wilson an extension to the limitation period within which to commence proceedings against the Mackay Hospital and Health Service (MHHS).

“(Ms Wilson) wishes to pursue damages for personal injuries arising from an incident which occurred when she was a child,” Justice Crow said in 15-page decision handed down on 29 July.

“The limitation period within which she was permitted to commence such proceedings expired on 17 August 2016, her 21st birthday.

“Ellie applies under Section 31 of the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (Qld) (LAA), to extend the limitation period applicable to the subject proceedings.”

Submissions to the court revealed Ellie, then aged 3, witnessed her sister become violently ill and pass away shortly after being treated and discharged from Mackay Base Hospital on 27 February 1999.

“After being assessed at the Mackay Base Hospital, Kate was discharged and taken home by (her mother) Mrs Wilson. Ellie recalls when Kate returned home, she was unable to get up and play and (became violently ill),” Justice Crow said.

“An ambulance was called. Kate was returned to the Mackay Base Hospital in an ambulance, however (within three hours of her discharge), Kate was (deceased) on arrival.”

Now aged 25, Ms Wilson has commenced personal injuries proceedings against MHHS for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) she claims “was caused by the negligence of the hospital”.

However, for the proceedings to continue Ms Wilson requires the court’s permission for extend the period of limitation to make a claim.

“Section 11 of the LAA prevents actions for personal injuries being brought any time after the expiration of three years from the date the cause of action arose, for all personal injuries other than dust-related conditions and actions for child abuse,” Justice Crow said.

“By virtue of s 29(1)(c) of the LAA, the period of limitation for a personal injury claim where the right of action arose when the claimant (Ms Wilson) was a child, expires on the claimant’s 21st birthday.

“As is plain here, Ellie’s right of action arose when she was approximately three-and-
a-half years old and therefore expired on 17 August 2016, when Ellie turned 21.”

On 18 June 2021, Ms Wilson filed a claim and statement of claim in the Supreme Court alleging
personal injury as a result of negligence caused by the respondent in respect of the death of her sister Kate.

In granting the extension, Justice Crow said: “I conclude that (submissions to the court by Ms Wilson) has met each of the five requirements in order to succeed in an application to extend the time period pursuant to Section 31 of the LAA.

“In my view, where Ellie has in fact already suffered from a relapse in her (PTSD) symptoms as a result of bringing the application and having been medically advised as to the likelihood of harm being suffered by bringing the claim, yet nonetheless persists in bringing her claim fortifies the conclusion that it is appropriate that the discretion to extend the time limitation period ought to be exercised in her favour.”

Justice Crow granted Ms Wilson’s extension up to and including 25 June 2021.

Read the decision.

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