Final Verdict: $20 Million After Missed Tumor
A Fairfax County, Virginia jury issued a stark warning to medical providers who fail to treat cancer symptoms seriously, awarding $20,500,000.00 to a Virginia plaintiff whose medical provider missed her tumor while it was still small.
Many medical malpractice cases involve errors or mistakes made during surgery. However, a missed diagnosis can be just as serious — or, in some cases, far more serious. There are numerous health conditions such as stroke, cancer, heart disease, and internal bleeding in which the signs are clear and time is of the essence. Failing to respond to and treat these types of symptoms can cause devastating injuries, as the condition can worsen rapidly and make treatment more challenging or even impossible.
If a medical malpractice attorney like Cohen & Cohen, P.C. can prove that a medical provider ignored critical signs when it should have acted, that medical provider can be held responsible for the consequences of their inaction, as 55-year-old Michelle O’Connell learned. Her mistreatment at the hands of Kaiser Permanente and the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group caused serious damages that almost cost her life.
The case began in July 2011, when Michelle underwent a double mastectomy with reconstructive implants at Kaiser Hospital in Springfield, Virginia. Shortly after the surgery, Michelle began feeling pain and a lump underneath her right breast implant. She reported it immediately, but her oncologist, Dr. Bassema Antabli, insisted it was merely scar tissue from the surgery. Although she asked whether they should do further examination, Antabli told her that diagnostic radiology (CT scans, MRIs, and other tests) was unnecessary and that she had “nothing to worry about” other than recovery from the surgery.
According to the Mayo Clinic, recurrence of cancer in a breast cancer patient is a critical risk that must be closely monitored:
- Recurrent breast cancer is breast cancer that comes back after initial treatment. Although the initial treatment is aimed at eliminating all cancer cells, a few may have evaded treatment and survived. These undetected cancer cells multiply, becoming recurrent breast cancer.
- Recurrent breast cancer may occur months or years after your initial treatment. The cancer may come back in the same place as original cancer (local recurrence), or it may spread to other areas of your body (distant recurrence).
Despite knowing these risks, Antabli repeatedly refused to consider the possibility of recurrence and failed to order a CT scan for two years. Even after Antabli finally ordered a CT scan which showed a mass on her right chest wall, Michelle was still told that the mass was merely scar tissue or leakage from her implant. Later tests rapidly showed that the mass was actually a malignant desmoid tumor that had grown rapidly, swallowing up portions of Michelle’s ribcage. In order for the tumor to be removed, Michelle had to have multiple bones removed and a lengthy series of surgeries that destroyed her chest wall and left her with permanent disfigurement and injury.
It was clear during the 6-day trial that the tumor could have been removed with far less damage if it had been identified early. After just two hours of deliberation, the jury found the defendants responsible for Michelle’s damages and awarded her a verdict of $20.5 million.