Medical Negligence

2009

Confidential Settlement

Medical Negligence Failure to Treat And Diagnose Breast Cancer, County of St. Louis

Parties: Client (female in her 50′s) v. confidential hospital located in St. Louis County and client’s family physician, an internal medicine specialist

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Robert Pedroli, Jr.

TYPE OF CLAIM: Failure to notify patient of an abnormal breast mammogram claim. The patient obtained a breast mammogram at the hospital pursuant to an appointment scheduled by her physician’s office. Patient was provided a written prescription to take to the hospital’s breast center for the test as well.

The test was correctly interpreted by the hospital’s independent contractor radiologist, as inconclusive, and the dictated report recommended an ultrasound to determine whether the density was a liquid cyst or a solid suspicious lesion. Under the FDA/MQSA regulations and standards, the hospital was required to send a” lay letter” to the patient with the results and a “report” to the ordering physician. The hospital claimed it sent the lay letter, but could not produce the documentation that it would usually have retained in its computer system to demonstrate that notice was sent. The patient claims she didn’t receive the lay letter because she would have panicked and immediately followed up on the abnormal result.

The hospital claimed it faxed the report to the physician and produced a telephone record which demonstrated that a telephone call was made to the physician’s fax number within minutes of the radiologist signing off on the report. This is how it would occur pursuant to the computer system and autofax system. The physician claimed she never saw the report and that her office didn’t receive the report. The battle lines were drawn.

There was evidence that the physician’s office was understaffed and overworked and plaintiff argued that the report likely was faxed and lost or not acted upon. There was evidence that the hospital had a failure in their system of sending FDA required notices to the patients. The hospital claimed the computer system was later corrupted causing data to be unretrievable. Plaintiff developed evidence that the computer system was glitching but kept in service for this time period.

Patient discovered lump over two years later. It was then realized that there was a prior abnormal report that was overlooked. This was plaintiff’s first mammogram and she was unaware that she should get a lay letter with the results.

DAMAGES ALLEGED: It was alleged that the delay in diagnosis caused the lesion to progress from a Stage I cancer to a Stage III a or b cancer. There was a dispute about the staging of the cancer. The case was settled when the patient was cancer free for over four years. Plaintiff’s long term prognosis was hotly disputed. It was disputed whether the patient would have received chemotherapy and radiation and surgery or a combination of these treatments if the cancer was treated when the proper report was written but not acted upon.

SETTLEMENT: Total Settlement was over $675,000.00, against the physician’s office and the hospital. The case was settled on the verge of trial after unsuccessful mediation, expert depositions and after all discovery was completed.