Failure to diagnose breast calsification as cancer--$4 million verdict.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA AFFIRMED THE JUDGMENT OF THE TRIAL COURT. The court held, inter alia, that the amount of damages awarded by the jury was not excessive. Although the appellate court made it clear that in its opinion the $4 million verdict was on the "high side" given the extent of the patient's injuries, her pain and suffering, and the significant reduction in her life expectancy attributed to the negligence of the defendants, the court could not say that the amount of the verdict was "unreasonable" or "so contrary to the evidence as to shock one's sense of justice." Accordingly, the court held that there were no grounds that warranted JNOV or a new trial. For the same reasons, the court concluded that a remittitur was not warranted. The court perceived the issue on appeal to be whether the plaintiffs experts offered opinions with a reasonable degree of medical certitude that the defendants' conduct breached the applicable standard of care and increased the risk of harm to the patient. It was not necessary that the plaintiff introduce any medical evidence in addition to that already adduced to prove the defendants' conduct increased the risk of harm--to establish that the negligence asserted resulted in the plaintiffs injury. Rather, once, the jury was apprised of the likelihood that the defendants' conduct resulted in the harm alleged by the plaintiff; the issue was one for the jury, and not the medical experts. Analogous is the failure of a physician to timely diagnose breast cancer. Although timely detection of breast cancer may well reduce the likelihood that a patient may have a terminal result--even with timely detection and optimal treatment--a certain percentage of patients (unfortunately) will succumb to the cancer. This statistical factor, however, does not preclude a plaintiff from prevailing in a law suit. Rather, once there is testimony that there was a failure to detect the cancer in a timely manner, and that such failure increased the risk that the patient would have either a shortened life expectancy or suffer harm, then, it was a question of fact for the jury whether they believed by a preponderance of the evidence, that the acts or omissions of the physician were a substantial factor in bringing about the harm to the plaintiff. The harm suffered to the patient involved not only the loss of the affected breast but necessary surgery to the patient's good breast to make her appear more symmetrical. Carrozza v. Greenbaum, 2004 WL 2850604 A.2d--PA (2004)
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|Author:||Tammelleo, A. David|
|Publication:||Hospital Law's Regan Report|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2005|
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