Cancer Diagnosis Delay in NH: $4.25 Million Settlement

2016 NH Medical Malpractice Trial Report

New Hampshire man's soft tissue sarcoma went undiagnosed by primary care physician for years — spreads to lungs, liver, pancreas and brain

The plaintiff was a 49-year-old man who was diagnosed with a rare metastatic soft tissue sarcoma of unknown type in November 2011. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant primary care physician delayed in diagnosing the plaintiff’s cancer.

The plaintiff began seeing the defendant in January 2008. At his first visit with the defendant, the plaintiff voiced concern about a lump on his left upper back. The lump had been present since the mid-1990’s and had been examined by other physicians in the past, who had believed it to be benign. The defendant examined the lump and noted it was firm, but smooth, and measured 5-6 cm. The defendant also believed the lump was a benign growth but ordered an x-ray, which came back normal.

The plaintiff returned in 3 months and reported that the lump was now painful. The lump had increased to 7 cm and was soft and smooth. The defendant continued to believe the lump was benign and ordered no further work-up.

Approximately one year later, the plaintiff returned to the defendant. The lump was still present and still painful. The defendant noted that the growth was benign.

The following year, in 2010, the plaintiff again reported that the lump on his back was causing pain and discomfort, and again the defendent thought the growth was benign.

In 2011, the plaintiff presented to a new primary care physician and reported that the lump on his back seemed to have increased in size and was now bothering him when sleeping and exercising. The new physician noted that the lump measured 5.5 x 7.5 cm and referred the plaintiff to a surgeon for further evaluation.

The subsequent work-up led to the discovery of a primary cancer in the plaintiff’s left upper back, which had spread to his lungs. The conclusion was a soft tissue sarcoma; however, the plaintiff’s cancer doctors were unable to determine the exact type of sarcoma. The plaintiff’s pathology slides were sent to several leading pathology experts, none of whom were able to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.

The plaintiff underwent aggressive treatment by a team of cancer specialists in New Hampshire and Boston, including radiation therapy and multiple surgeries. Despite the treatment, the cancer continued to progress and spread throughout both lungs, and to his liver, pancreas, and brain.

The plaintiff enrolled in several experimental clinical trials; however, the trials were unsuccessful and his cancer doctors eventually were forced to stop all treatment. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant primary care physician was negligent when he failed to refer the plaintiff for a diagnostic work up of the lump, thereby causing nearly a four (4) year delay in the diagnosis and treatment of his soft tissue sarcoma. The plaintiff further alleged that the delay allowed the cancer to progress from an early stage, curable, cancer to an advanced stage, incurable, cancer at the time of eventual diagnosis.

The plaintiff died shortly after the case settled before trial for $4,250,000.00.

Lubin & Meyer attorney Nicholas Cappiello represented the plaintiff in this New Hampshire medical malpractice lawsuit.

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