An important procedural note is that the two year statute of limitations in
medical malpractice cases begins when the "plaintiff actually knew, or in the
exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, the cause and existence
of his injury." Wehrman v. U.S., 830 F.2d 1480, 1483 (8th Cir. 1987). This
differs from the "time of injury" specification for other damages under the
FTCA. Hence, the injured person is not penalized for not immediately realizing
his injury. Only after a plaintiff knows or should know that he has been injured
and who has inflicted the injury does the clock start to run. That said, the
plaintiff does have a duty to investigate the unknown cause of the known
injury. Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 732 (8th Cir. 1990).
The scope of the FTCA is that "the United States shall be liable, respecting the
provisions of the United States Code relating to tort claims, in the same manner
and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances."
However, the FTCA contains certain exceptions, notably the discretionary
function exception and the assault and battery exception. Therefore, in cases
of alleged medical malpractice, such as the care and treatment of patients in
government hospitals, the federal government often asserts either of these
exceptions as an affirmative defense to liability. The results have been mixed.