PSA Test Results Withheld—Prostate Cancer Diagnosis Delay Settles for $2 Million
2011 Medical Malpractice Trial Report
Prostate Cancer Death: Elevated PSA Test Result Withheld for 16 Months
This medical malpractice action was first brought by the decedent, who indicated that the defendants never informed him of an elevated PSA test result for approximately 16 months. The test results were not in the defendant’s chart and the patient’s primary care doctor indicated that he had not seen that test result. The plaintiff alleged intentional spoliation of evidence against the PCP. The plaintiff claimed that the motive for intentional spoliation was so that the PCP could claim it was a systems error in which the lab did not send the result back to the office. The plaintiff proved at trial, however, that the result had been received in the office, that there were in fact 2 separate copies of the report sent to the office, and that the paper had not been misfiled or lost. Plaintiff argued that there was a strong inference that it was intentionally removed from the chart. The plaintiff put forward evidence that this was the only instance of a test result going missing from their office, let alone 2 separate copies. The plaintiff demonstrated the absurdity of any explanation other than intentional spoliation, given that it could not be a mere coincidence that this missing result happened to be the only significantly abnormal test result the patient ever had, which also was never reported to him.
The defense focused its defense on causation, claiming that the biology of the decedent’s cancer was among the most aggressive forms of prostate cancer. The defense expert testified about his extensive qualifications in the area of prostate cancer. He testified that the decedent’s prostate cancer at diagnosis was more advanced than any case he had seen in more than 30 years and that it would be biologically impossible for his cancer to have not already been metastatic at the time of his earlier abnormal PSA test result. The defense expert testified that the patient’s outcome would have been the same result regardless of whether a diagnosis was made 16 months earlier.
Plaintiff’s counsel cross-examined the expert on prior statements in his own medical literature regarding the benefits of early diagnosis and used the expert’s own doubling time analysis to show how much less cancer the decedent would have had if he had been diagnosed 16 months earlier.
Settlement discussions during trial began after the defendant conceded causation during plaintiff’s counsel’s cross-examination. Settlement during trial was $2 million. (Essex County Superior Court)
Lubin & Meyer represented the plaintiff in this medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit.
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