Traditionally courts have held that a right of action accrues immediately upon the infliction or occurrence of injury and that mere ignorance or failure of plaintiff to discover his cause of action or the subsequent resulting damage does not toll the statute. That this is a harsh and oppressive rule there can be little doubt. To counter the casualties it has produced the courts have fashioned the so-called "discovery doctrine," under which the statute does not begin to run until the negligent injury is, or should have been discovered.
Defendant doctor performed surgery on plaintiff, the purpose of which was to avoid future pregnancies. However plaintiff again became pregnant after the surgery. There was a one-year statute of limitations, plaintiff filed an action eleven months after discovering her pregnancy, but a few years after the surgery.
Did the statute of limitations begin to run from the date of the discovery of the injury (as opposed to when the injury occurred)?
The court reversed the lower court's grant of summary judgment and held that where medical malpractice is asserted to have occurred through the negligent performance of surgical procedures, the cause of action accrues and the statute of limitations begins to run when the patient discovers, or in the exercise of reasonable care and diligence for his own health and welfare, should have discovered the resulting injury.