September 25, 2018, PNLR News
Failure to timely identify pelvic mass
The patient’s estate sued an obstetrician and his practice, alleging failure to diagnose the patient’s teratoma and obtain informed consent from her about removing the mass before advising her to continue with her plans to undergo IVF and become pregnant. The woman died of metastatic cancer shortly after giving birth to twins. Perez v. St. Alexius Med. Ctr.
Marilyn Perez, 42, went to St. Alexius Medical Center’s emergency room after experiencing right lower pelvic pain over a two-day period. The radiologist interpreting Perez’s CT scan identified a pelvic mass consistent with a dermoid cyst or teratoma. Another radiologist, Jeffrey Chung, who interpreted Perez’s ultrasound did not mention a dermoid cyst or teratoma in his report. Perez was discharged home.
At a subsequent visit with obstetrician Christopher Michael, he told Perez that she most likely had a fibroid, not a teratoma, and that the mass did not require surgical removal. The doctor also advised Perez to continue her in vitro fertilization treatment. Several months later, she became pregnant.
During the pregnancy, Perez required an appendectomy and later developed stabbing pain radiating to her buttocks and right leg. The first radiologist reported, based on a CT scan, that Perez’s dermoid tumor had shifted to the left side of her abdomen. Two months later, Perez delivered twin boys by cesarean section. A pathology report of the tissue removed during the surgery revealed that the mass had transformed to squamous cell carcinoma, resulting in metastatic cancer of her peritoneum, bowel, and uterus.
Perez underwent chemotherapy, as well as treatment to address surgical wounds that did not heal. She also required extensive narcotic pain medication. She later died of her disease. Perez, a social worker, is survived by her husband and two minor sons.
Perez’s estate sued Michael and his practice, alleging failure to diagnose the teratoma and obtain informed consent from Perez about removing the mass before advising her to continue with her plans to undergo IVF and become pregnant. The plaintiff also sued a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, alleging he had failed to read the CT scan report and mistakenly told Perez that fibroid tumors were responsible for her pain. Additionally, suit against a radiology group alleged liability for Chung’s failure to identify the dermoid or teratoma in his ultrasound report. The plaintiff also alleged Chung was directly liable and the hospital was liable for Chung’s negligence.
Finally, suit alleged that a fertility doctor and his practice were liable for the doctor’s misdiagnosis of the teratoma as a fibroid the year before Perez’s visit to the emergency room.
The plaintiff settled with the maternal-fetal medicine specialist for $125,000 before trial. The plaintiff also settled with the radiology group for $1 million and with the infertility defendants for $1 million. Michael settled during closing arguments for his $1 million policy limits.
The jury awarded $25 million against Michael, finding Chung and the hospital not liable. The case is on appeal against Chung and the hospital.
Citation: Perez v. St. Alexius Med. Ctr., No. 2014-L-010905 (Ill. Cir. Ct. Cook Cnty. May 21, 2018).
Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Robert S. Baizer, Joseph E. Kolar, and David A. Neiman, all of Highland Park, Ill.