In May, a trio of medical malpractice lawyers from Martin Clearwater & Bell LLP (MCB) obtained a defense verdict after a three-week trial in Supreme Court, Nassau County before Justice Thomas  Feinman. MCB Senior Trial Partner Anthony M. Sola, was assisted by Of Counsel Tracy A. Abramson and Associate Jacqueline A. Wild, in the defense of physicians who treated a young mother.   

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The plaintiff alleged that the defendant physicians failed to diagnose a Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) in the lung  of a 29-year-old woman during her pregnancy. During her entire pregnancy she complained of a severe cough and chest pain, and, starting in the second trimester, she developed a severe rash over most of her body. A month after her delivery, her family doctor ordered a chest x-ray which soon after led to a diagnosis of a Stage IV DLBCL for which she was treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Medical Center with an experimental therapy protocol. She was still in remission at the time of trial. In retrospect, the cough, chest pain and rash were due to the DLBCL.

At trial, the defense focused on the fact that the plaintiff’s complaints were outside of their area of expertise so they properly referred the patient to a pulmonary specialist and a dermatologist who were not named defendants. Plaintiff claimed that the obstetricians were acting as her primary care doctor during the pregnancy and failed to coordinate the care and arrange, among other things,  for a chest imaging study suggested by one of the pulmonologists.

Sola was able to impeach the credibility of the plaintiff on the issue of who was her primary care physician by introducing a record uncovered during the pretrial preparation that showed the plaintiff went to a different doctor during her pregnancy. MCB further demonstrated that the suggestion for a chest imaging study was one that the outside specialist was considering performing and was not a recommendation to the obstetricians to order. Finally, MCB proved that the patient herself failed to follow up with the outside specialists.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants, dismissing the entire complaint.  Because the jury did not completely follow the instructions on the verdict sheet, they went further than required and also answered the culpable conduct questions, finding that the plaintiff herself was completely responsible for any delay in the diagnosis.