Metro Verdicts Monthly’s cover graph is failure to diagnose breast cancer settlements and verdicts in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. By some estimates, between 8% and 12% of cancer cases are initially misdiagnosed. It is hard to call one type of cancer misdiagnosis case more tragic than another. Every misdiagnosis is going to decrease the chance of treating and defeating the cancer. But, many cancer misdiagnosis cases are not medical malpractice cases because the cancer is so aggressive, but breast cancer misdiagnosis cases are fueled by tragedy because breast cancer is often extremely manageable when caught early, and often fatal when missed. The median verdict/settlement in failure to diagnose breast cancer lawsuits:
- Maryland: $955,841
- Washington, D.C.: $1,101,000
- Virginia: $550,000
I think the average breast cancer misdiagnosis verdict/settlement is much higher than these statistics. I don’t have the data, but the median is almost invariably lower than the average.
Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Statistics
Before we get to the sample settlements and verdicts, I want to give you a flavor for the problems doctors have in diagnosing breast cancer.
- A JAMA-published study had pathologists interpret breast biopsy slides. It found the following:
- Around 25 percent of slides were misinterpreted.
- Four percent of invasive carcinoma cases were misinterpreted.
- 16 percent of ductal carcinoma in situ cases were misinterpreted.
- 52 percent of atypia cases were misinterpreted.
- A study published in The Breast examined 48 breast cancer medical malpractice cases in New York. It found the following:
- 34 cases were plaintiff verdicts.
- The median award for plaintiff verdicts and settlements was $1.8 million.
- For verdicts, it was $2.6 million.
- For settlements, it was $1.68 million.
- 32 cases involved a defendant radiologist, while 15 involved a surgeon.
- 18 cases involved misinterpreted mammogram findings.
- The average diagnosis delay was about 13 months.
- 14 cases involved a stage 4 diagnosis
- Nine cases involved a stage 3 diagnosis
- 15 cases involved a stage 2 diagnosis
- A Clinical Imaging-published study examined 253 breast cancer verdicts and settlements between 2005 and 2015. It found the following:
- The median age of the plaintiff was 46.
- The plaintiff awards ranged between $978,858 and $2,308,598.
- Delayed diagnoses comprised 82 percent of cases.
- 43 percent of defendants were radiologists, 27 percent were surgeons, 26 percent were OB/GYNs, and 15 percent were internists.
I find these breast misdiagnosis statistics simply stunning. There has to be a way to turn these numbers around.
Failure to Diagnose Breast Cancer Verdicts and Settlements
One way to look at settlement value in these cases is to look at average verdict and settlement statistics. Another is to look other failures to diagnose breast cancer cases. to try to draw comparisons. Neither of these methods are remotely foolproof. But, combining statistics and example cancer misdiagnosis settlements and verdicts, you get closer to understanding what the settlement value of your case might look like.
These are recent sample breast cancer verdicts and settlements. There are no recent reported cases in Maryland so this is a sampling of results from around the country.
YEAR / STATE
2019 – Florida
The plaintiff, a registered nurse, alleged that the defendant medical provider failed to diagnose her breast cancer early enough that she could have had a better survival rate. Upon discovering a large lump on her left breast, she was referred to the hospital where she was employed to have an ultrasound performed on her. The physicians thought it was mastitis and decided not to make a clear diagnosis. The plaintiff then sought another ultrasound ten days later. The technologist failed to image the breast lump, however. Upon reading the ultrasound, the radiologist concluded that there was skin thickening, but the lump was benign. One year later, the plaintiff was diagnosed with terminal stage IV breast cancer. She underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy. Despite treatment, her doctors concluded that the cancer was incurable and she only had one more year to live. The jury awarded the plaintiff $21,500,000 in damages.
$21,500,000 – Verdict
2019 – District of Columbia
During the plaintiff’s routine mammogram screening, the radiologist found nothing that may indicate breast cancer. Two years later, she experienced breast pain, found a lump in her breast, and was diagnosed with Stage IV ductal carcinoma that spread to her spine. She sued her radiologist for failing to diagnose her two years earlier. Her expert radiologist testified that, in reviewing the plaintiff’s initial mammogram, he found a linear branching calcification that usually indicates cancer. The plaintiff underwent regular chemotherapy treatment following her diagnosis. She developed peripheral neuropathy as a complication of her treatment, which caused her constant pain. The plaintiff was only expected to live for ten years following her diagnosis. The jury awarded the plaintiff $14,350,000. This includes $7,500,000 in past pain and suffering and $2,500,000 in future pain and suffering.
$14,350,000 – Verdict
2019 – Pennsylvania
In this case, the defendant doctors misdiagnosed the plaintiff with benign calcifications that were signs of malignant breast cancer. The plaintiff underwent annual mammograms for two years which showed calcification. However, each different radiologist who read the report for that year determined the calcifications were not suspicious. Two years after the first mammogram, the plaintiff visited her family physician with a tender lump. She then underwent a mammogram that revealed a solid mass that the third radiologist deemed suspicious. A biopsy was conducted, resulting in the plaintiff’s invasive mammary carcinoma diagnosis. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant doctors’ negligence led to a delay of 22 months in her breast cancer diagnosis. She also alleged that the radiologist failed to review the mammogram results with another health care professional. Her oncology expert noted that had she been diagnosed early enough, she would have only been diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer, which would have been more easily treatable. He also opined that the plaintiff’s best-case scenario for survival is a guarded prognosis, while her worst-case scenario is two to three years. The jury awarded the plaintiff $3,350,000.
$3,350,000 – Verdict
2019 – New York
The plaintiff alleged that the defendant breast surgeon and co-defendant radiologist misread her two mammograms performed weeks apart. One year after the mammograms were performed, the plaintiff visited the surgeon with nipple discharge, a potential sign of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. The plaintiff contended that she should have undergone an MRI and other tests during this visit. Her surgeon chose not to order testing. A year later, doctors diagnosed her with Stage IIIA breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and breast reconstruction. Despite four years of treatment, cancer reached Stage V and spread to her vertebrae. Her cancer was deemed incurable and her life expectancy shortened. The plaintiff contended that had she been diagnosed earlier, cancer would have been at Stage I, which has a 90% survival rate. The jury awarded the plaintiff a total of $15,000,000.
$15,000,000 – Verdict
2019 – New York
A couple alleged that a health care facility delayed the plaintiff’s wife’s breast cancer diagnosis, which resulted in its spread. The woman died before the case settled, and her husband, acting as his wife’s estate’s administrator, became the sole plaintiff. The parties reached a confidential cancer misdiagnosis settlement of $200,000. Failure to diagnose breast cancer cases usually have a higher settlement value. You have to suspect this case had serious weakness given this settlement.
$200,000 – Settlement
2019 – California
This case involves a plaintiff who alleged that the defendant misread her biopsy results as negative for malignancy. The mammogram and ultrasound results confirmed a lump on her right breast. She claimed that his negligence resulted in a 100-day delay in her breast cancer diagnosis. Her lesion grew over several months, which prompted her to visit another breast surgeon. This physician determined that the biopsy results showed results of malignancy. She underwent chemotherapy treatment and a partial mastectomy. The plaintiff’s malpractice lawsuit contended that this delay in diagnosis allowed cancer to spread to a point where it was incurable. She also argued that she is not expected to live for more than five years. Prior to trial, the case settled for $699,000.
$699,000 – Settlement
2019 – District of Columbia
In this case, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant radiologist misread a second mammogram performed on her. This second mammogram was performed after the first showed suspicious density in her left breast. The radiologist read the test as showing no cancer signs and told the plaintiff to return for another mammogram the following year. During the follow-up mammogram, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which spread to her lymph nodes. The plaintiff underwent chemotherapy, a hysterectomy, and a mastectomy. She has no evidence of cancer but has a life expectancy of ten years. The jury awarded the plaintiff $680,000.
$680,000 – Verdicts
2019 – California
This case involves a defendant physician whose discarding of mass aspirated from his patient’s breast delayed her breast cancer diagnosis. This discarded mass would have been examined for a diagnosis. The physician referred the patient for an ultrasound and a mammogram. Their results showed a hematoma that obscured mass, which the radiologist thought was part of the hematoma. Upon seeing a surgeon one month later, she had edema on her breast. The patient underwent a biopsy that revealed an aggressive form of breast cancer. She underwent chemotherapy, which was ineffective. The patient then took medication that produced a transient response. The cancer spread to the brain, and she died eight months later. Her family sued the physician. Her misdiagnosis lawsuit alleged that he should have submitted the aspirate for examination. This examination would have diagnosed cancer early enough for it to be treatable. The case settled for $887,806.
$887,806 – Settlement