Confidential summaries of Physicians Insurance cases that have gone to trial and are on public record.
NOTE: In reporting these legal results, it is our goal to inform members about issues that impact health-care professionals. While we share information we think may be informative, we choose not to disclose the names of plaintiffs or defendants when reporting these results.
DELAYED DIAGNOSIS: BREAST CANCER
SPECIALTY: Physician’s Assistant and Family Practice
ALLEGATION: The plaintiff was a 28-year-old single woman with two young children who underwent a medical abortion in May of 2014. She was referred from an Emergency Department to the defendant provider on 9/23/14, for complaints of abnormal vaginal bleeding. The physician’s exam disclosed a previously undiagnosed right-breast lump. He ordered an ultrasound performed on 9/26/14, which was found to be negative, BI-RADS 1. The patient also underwent a hysteroscopy on 10/2/14, which diagnosed the abnormal bleeding as related to retained products of conception from her March pregnancy.
Radiology sent the patient a letter indicating that her ultrasound results were normal/benign. The letter went on to say that a normal breast ultrasound does not entirely exclude the possibility of breast disease, and requires continued follow-up. On 10/8/14, the patient called to request consent to return to work. She was reminded of her follow-up appointment on 10/10/14. When she failed to show up, a staff member called within one hour to leave a message requesting that the patient call to schedule a new appointment.
The patient testified that the right-breast lump did not change until a few months after the birth of her third child on 1/1/16. Breast exams performed during her hospitalization for the delivery found no evidence of a right-breast lump. By July of 2016, the patient was diagnosed with a right-breast tumor that involved most of her breast. Despite a negative left-breast exam in July of 2016, by August, she was diagnosed with extensive breast lumps on the left. Her Stage IV breast cancer responded initially to chemotherapy but by trial, her prognosis was poor.
PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY: Steve Haskell, Spokane, WA
PLAINTIFF EXPERTS: Nicholas Fogelson, MD, OBG, Portland, OR, Claire Buchana, MD, Surgical Oncology, Seattle, WA, Randall Patton, MD, Radiology, Olympia, WA
DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Steve Lamberson, Spokane, WA, Jennifer Moore, Seattle, WA
DEFENSE EXPERTS: Rachel Brem, MD, Breast Imaging/Radiology, Washington, DC, James Brasch, MD, OBG Spokane, WA, Ira Bleiweiss, MD, PTH Phildelphia, PA, Tammy deLamelena, MD, Surgical Oncology, Portland, OR
RESULT: Defense Verdict; Jury Trial
FAILURE TO PERFORM: WRIST SURGERY
SPECIALTY: Orthopedic Surgery
ALLEGATION: On 2/15/14 the patient fell and fractured her wrist while ice skating. Following her fall, she presented to the Emergency Department, where she was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. On 2/21/14 the patient presented to the orthopedic surgeon. After having X-rays taken of the patient’s wrist, the surgeon informed her that the best course of action would be for him to perform surgery to repair the fracture. He explained in detail the process for performing an open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) with the use of a plate and screws, which is the specific procedure he recommended. The patient was resistant to surgery because of the cost, but the surgeon gave her the code for the procedure so she could contact the business office about a payment plan. At the end of the visit on 2/21/14, the patient contacted the business office and received a quote for the surgery, as well as information regarding payment plans.
On 2/26/14 the patient returned to see the orthopedic surgeon and explained that she wanted him to perform a closed reduction. The defendant surgeon reiterated that closed reductions do not actually improve this type of fracture, and he again urged the patient to consider an ORIF. The patient again resisted the surgeon’s recommendation, and she ultimately opted for casting rather than surgery. The patient’s cast was removed on 3/28/14 and she was transitioned into a removable brace and advised to follow up as needed.
PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY: Mark Perez, Seattle, WA
PLAINTIFF EXPERT: Jeffrey Holms, MD (ORS), Los Gatos, CA
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Dylan, Cohon & Lauren Martin, Seattle, WA
DEFENSE EXPERTS: Douglas Hanel, MD (ORS), Seattle, WA, Tristan McGovern, MD (ORS), Port Angeles, WA
RESULT: Defense Verdict; Jury Trial