A Philadelphia jury unanimously found in favor of a woman who alleged that 2 doctors at 2 hospitals failed to timely diagnose breast cancer and awarded her $12 Million as compensation. Sutherlin v. Magilner. At trial, the jury heard testimony that 2 doctors at 2 different hospitals – Fox Chase Cancer Center and Albert Einstein Medical Center – missed suspicious findings on mammograms that required follow-up evaluation and would have diagnosed Stage 1 breast cancer that could have been cured with a mastectomy. The jury heard that because of the errors, the woman was not diagnosed until she had Stage 4 cancer that had spread to her bones and organs.
The woman received a screening mamogram in June 2003 from a Fox Chase mobile mammography unit that was read as showing a dilated duct unchanged from a 2001 mammogram. The jury heard testimony that the woman’s 2001 mammogram did not show a dilated duct, which meant that the 2003 mammogram should have been reported as showing a suspicious change that required further evaluation. The woman then had a 2004 mammogram at the Albert Einstein Medical Center and the physician who read that report noted several small nodular densities that were stable when compared to prior mammograms. Again, the jury heard evidence that the doctor mis-read the mammogram because the woman’s prior mammograms had not reported nodular densities. The woman’s lawyers argued that doctors again missed a chance to instruct the woman to obtain follow-up medical care that would have diagnosed the cancer. Ultimately, the woman was found to have Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in the location where the 2003 mammogram showed a dilated duct.
Prior to trial, the Albert Einstein Medical Center and the doctor who read the 2004 mammogram settled with the woman for a confidential amount of money. Fox Chase and its physician had refused offers to settle along with Albert Einstein for a total of $2 Million (which was the maximum amount available under the doctors’ insurance coverage), offering only $125,000. The woman’s lawyer had warned Fox Chase that if a jury ultimately awarded more than $2 Million, the woman would be eligible to pursue bad faith claims for failing to settle.
This case demonstrates that any woman diagnosed with breast cancer even though she has been receiving regular screening mammograms should have the films and reports reviewed by a competent medical malpractice attorney who can have medical experts determine if suspicious findings were actually present on the studies, but not identified.