Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Results in $3 Million Verdict

When Katherine Palar was sent to Punxsutawey Hospital in March of 2009 for an MRI of her spine, the scan was read by Dr. John Wohlwend. In April she was sent back for a second MRI, and Wohlwend again viewed the images, focusing on identifying and describing a small cystic lesion located close to her spine. In reading both scans he ignored a mass that was present in the right upper lobe of Palar’s lung. That failure to report a mass measuring 2.2 centimeters by 1.8 centimeters was reportedly responsible for the progression of Palar’s non-small cell carcinoma of the lung from a stage IA to a stage IIIA 4.5-centimeter mass, and the reduction of her chances of survival from 70 percent to less than 25 percent. A Jefferson County jury has awarded her a $3 million delayed diagnosis verdict, the largest ever awarded in the county.

In reviewing the case, the jury assigned fifty percent negligence to each of two physicians – Dr. Wohlwend and Dr. Kamal Khalaf, who had reviewed Palar’s X-rays in 2010 and 2012 and who had not spotted the lesion. Though Dr. Khalaf admitted his liability, saying that he could have been more prudent in his care, Dr. Wohlwend defended himself in court, stating that an MRI of the spine is not used to look at the lung, and therefore he pays no attention to the lungs when a spinal MRI is prescribed. He further maintained that the lungs appear blurry on MRI films.

In expert testimony provided for Ms. Palar, Dr. Michael Racenstein of Alexian Brothers Medical Center indicated that Dr. Wohlwend’s failure to suggest a follow-up examination of the mass in the lungs represented a breach in the standard of care expected of a radiologist, and had resulted in the progression of Ms. Palar’s condition, as well as the injuries that she suffered while undergoing radiation and chemotherapy once her advanced stage illness was diagnosed in 2013. Speaking for himself, Dr. Khalaf indicated that had Dr. Wohlwend referenced the lung mass in his reports he would have responded by suggesting further evaluation and consultation.

During the course of the trial, Ms. Palar had requested a $2 million verdict, to which the defense offered no response. The jury took just one hour to deliverate and awarded her $3 million, with $1.5 million provided to compensate her for past noneconomic losses and $1.5 million for future noneconomic losses.

If you are look for a personal injury attorney in Bucks County Pennsylvania then you need Joseph Derita.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *