Through a $1.25 million dollar verdict, a Philadelphia jury sent the message that a doctor has a duty to follow up on the ordering of tests and should not leave it solely to the patient.
At the core of the case was a doctor’s failure to timely diagnose and treat a 25-year-old man’s lymphoma.
Partner Michael F. Barrett and associate Ara Avrigian, of Daniels Saltz Barrett and argued the case against Dr. David W Granoff, D.O., an ear, nose and throat specialist. The judge dismissed the case against the family practitioners after all the evidence was presented.
Stephen A. Ryan, shareholder at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, represented Granoff.
The jury in the five-day trial before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Bernard J. Goodheart deliberated for three hours, finding the doctor 75 percent negligent and the patient, Andre Hinmon, now deceased, 25 percent negligent.
With the breakdown of negligence, the amount awarded to the plaintiff will amount to $937,500, which will grow to $1.38 million if delay damages are awarded. There were no settlement offers, according to Barrett.
On Aug. 20, 1993, Hinmon went to his family doctor with a lump on the right side of his neck The family doctor then referred him to Granoff. At that time, Granoff prescribed an antibiotic and indicated Hinmon may need a CAT scan and biopsy, Barrett said.
“The antibiotics worked to decrease the swelling and he didn’t have any further problems until May 1994,” Barrett said.
Hinmon then returned to his family doctor with complaints similar to those in the first visit, and the doctor again referred him to Granoff. Hinmon was actually treated at this point by another doctor in Granoff’s office.
Hinmon was diagnosed with stage 4-B lymphoma. Barrett said the plaintiff’s medical experts testified the cancer was in stage one in 1993 and at that time, Hirunon had an 80 to 85 percent chance of remission and a 65 percent chance of recovery. At the stage four diagnosis, there was only a 10 percent chance for a cure, he said.
“[Granoff] should have scheduled the study and he should not have left it up to the patient to arrange for his study,” Barrett said. “And he should have followed up to make sure that the CAT scan was completed.”
Barrett said he argued Granoff should have followed up his plan for biopsy as well.
Hinmon’s widow testified she had no knowledge Granoff ever recommended either of the tests.
Ryan said he argued Granoff did not have a duty to follow up.
“We believe that was the standard of care in 1993,” Ryan said. “Our position was that the patient was told that he needed a CAT scan and biopsy, and he was told why he needed them, and he was told how to schedule the CAT scan at his convenience.”
Ryan also raised the possibilities Hinmon wanted to wait on the treatment until he received health insurance through his employer and that Hinmon might have been afraid to find out he had a problem.
“The defense brought this out and we rebutted it by turning it around and asking whether the real reason the doctor didn’t schedule the test was because our client didn’t have insurance,” Barrett said. “In other words, [Granoff] didn’t do what he should have done because our client lacked insurance.”
The jury sided with Barrett mostly, finding Hinmon was only partially negligent.
Ryan said he was not shocked at the outcome but was disappointed with the allocation of percentages of responsibility.
“I thought the patient had more than half of the responsibility,” Ryan said.