MISDIAGNOSIS OF TESTICULAR CANCER
(Somerset, PA) Tried in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, before the Honorable Eugene Fike, this case concerned a five-month delay in diagnosing testicular cancer in a 31-year-old man from Somerset, Pennsylvania. The case was unusual in that ultimately it was presented to the jury as an ordinary negligence case only. What happened in the case is that there was a breakdown in the communication of an abnormal ultrasound report from Somerset Hospital to the patient as well the urologist, Dr. Shank. The sole issues in the case concerned office procedures and policies of the urologist, Somerset Hospital, and the primary care physicians.
The urologist contended that while his office bore responsibility for misplacing the mailed test, he claimed he should have been called by the hospital under their policies and under his custom in dealing with them. The primary care physician admitted that they were supposed to call the patient with the abnormal results. Due to the breakdown in the system, the patient remained undiagnosed for five months, and the cancer spread to a lymph node in his retroperitoneal area.
As a result, the patient needed major surgery to remove the lymph node and chemotherapy, when the treatment likely could have been avoided had it been diagnosed at the earliest stage. The plaintiff also then was at a slightly elevated risk of future recurrence, and he suffered some complications of the chemotherapy.
The jury returned a verdict of approximately $375,000 against the urologist 80 percent and Somerset Hospital 20 percent. They found that the primary care physician was negligent but that the negligence was not a factual cause of the plaintiff’s harm.
Because the case was tried as an ordinary negligence case, the only expert testimony related to causation and the effect of the delay in allowing the cancer to spread. The defendants were barred from offering expert testimony on standard of care, since there was no question as to the standard of care, but only a question as whether or not the defendants had followed their own policies and procedures.
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