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Weis v. Marshfield Clinic, et al.

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE: ZERO DOLLARS

Injuries claimed: The patient’s estate claimed pre-death pain and suffering, and the patient’s widow requested loss of society and companionship.

Court: Brown County Circuit Court

Case name: Weis v. Marshfield Clinic, et al.

Case number: 07-CV-175

Judge: Donald R. Zuidmulder

Verdict & settlement: The jury returned a defense verdict

Amount sought: $350,000 (the cap) for loss of society and companionship, and the estate $1 million in pre-death pain and suffering

Award: Zero dollars

Disposition date: March 11, 2010

Plaintiffs attorney (firm): D. James Weis and Theresa B. Laughlin, Habush Habush & Rottier, SC, Wausau

Defendants attorney (firm): Doctor and Marshfield Clinic: Randall J. Sandfort, Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, Barrett J. Corneille, Corneille Law Group, Madison; Wisconsin Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund: Jeremy T. Gill, Nash Spindler Grimstad & McCracken, LLP, Manitowoc

Plaintiffs expert witnesses: Dr. Hamied Rezazadeh, medical oncologist; Dr.Michael Lagios, pathologist

Defendants expert witnesses: Dr. James A. Stewart, medical oncologist; Dr. Richard Margolese, surgical oncologist; Dr. Alan David, family practitioner

Defense counsel’s summary of the facts: On Feb. 17, 2004, the patient appeared for her annual OB/GYN examination at the office of her primary care provider. The patient testified during an evidentiary deposition that she had left breast abnormalities present on that date. The history as recorded in the patient’s chart stated that breast abnormalities had existed prior to the patient visit, but had resolved by the day of the exam. The physician conceded that if the breast abnormalities described by the patient had been present at the time of the examination on Feb. 17, 2004, the standard of care would have required an immediate referral to a surgeon to evaluate the patient for the possibility of breast cancer.

The patient’s husband and numerous family members described breast abnormalities both before and after the Feb. 17, 2004 patient visit. They, along with the patient, testified that once the abnormality began, it was present continuously.

The history recorded by the physician on Feb. 16, 2004 was different than the patient and family recollections. In addition, the examination of the breast done on that day was charted as normal. Although the date of dictation of the office note could not be determined, the clinical note was not transcribed until 48 days later, and it was not signed until May 8. The patient’s explanation for the delay was that the physician was preoccupied with family issues that caused a delay in dictation, transcription and signing. Patient alleged that the delay resulted in an inaccurate note.

When the patient’s breast cancer was diagnosed approximately 12 months later, it was resistant to all forms of treatment. The patient argued that earlier diagnosis would have led to a different outcome, and the defense asserted that the patient’s aggressive cancer precluded a change in outcome with earlier diagnosis.

The plaintiff’s cancer eventually caused her demise. Her husband sought $350,000 (the cap) for loss of society and companionship, and the estate $1 million in pre-death pain and suffering.

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