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E.Y. v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 10, 2014

E.Y., A MINOR, BY HIS MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND TENILLE WALLACE, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant-Appellee

Argued: May 20, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 10 C 7346 -- Robert W. Gettleman, Judge.

For E. Y., a minor, by his mother and next friend TENILLE WALLACE, TENILLE WALLACE, individually, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Keith A. Hebeisen, Attorney, Clifford Law Offices, P.C., Chicago, IL.

For United States of America, Defendant - Appellee: Kurt Lindland, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Chicago, IL.

Before KANNE, TINDER, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 862

Hamilton, Circuit Judge.

Tenille Wallace brings this suit on behalf of herself and her young son, E.Y., who has been diagnosed with diplegic cerebral palsy. She alleges that E.Y.'s illness resulted from medical malpractice by two separate healthcare providers: the federally-funded

Page 863

Friend Family Health Center, where she received her prenatal care, and the private University of Chicago Hospital, where she gave birth. The present appeal involves the timeliness of her suit based on the actions of the Friend Center.

The Friend Center and its doctors are federally funded, and as explained below, federal law makes Ms. Wallace's suit against the Center a suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). She needed to file suit against the Friend Center within the FTCA's two-year statute of limitations. See 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b). The district court denied the government's motion to dismiss because Ms. Wallace's claim could have accrued less than two years before she filed suit. Eventually, though, the district court granted summary judgment for the government, finding that Ms. Wallace's suit against the Friend Center and thus the United States was filed about two weeks too late.

Ms. Wallace appeals, arguing that although she was aware she might have a claim against the University Hospital more than two years before filing this suit, she remained unaware that the Friend Center might be involved until she received a partial set of medical records from the Center on December 14, 2006, making her suit timely. Although Ms. Wallace's claims against the University Hospital and other non-federal defendants remain pending in the district court, the district court properly entered a separate final judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) on the claims against the United States, so we have jurisdiction over the appeal.

We reverse. Reading the evidence in Ms. Wallace's favor as we must at summary judgment, a reasonable trier of fact could find that Ms. Wallace was unaware and had no reason to be aware of the Friend Center's potential involvement in her son's injuries until less than two years before she filed her suit. Although Ms. Wallace soon suspected that the University Hospital might have caused her son's injuries during delivery, the evidence does not show beyond reasonable dispute that she similarly suspected or should have suspected that the Friend Center's prenatal care had contributed to her son's injuries until she and her lawyers received incomplete records from the Center suggesting that something was amiss. That did not occur until December 14, 2006. She filed suit less than two years later, on December 10, 2008, so her suit should not have been dismissed on summary judgment as untimely. In essence, we think the district court was correct at the motion to dismiss stage when it denied the government's motion to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds using the same reasoning we adopt here.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Ms. Wallace appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment for the government, so we construe all evidence and draw all reasonable inferences from that evidence in her favor. Gil v. Reed, 535 F.3d 551, 556 (7th Cir. 2008); ...


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