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ARTICLE ID 200737

$________ – MEDICAL MALPRACTICE – HOSPITAL MALPRACTICE – FAILURE TO TAKE TIMELY MRI FOR 16-YEAR-OLD PATIENT – FAILURE TO TIMELY DIAGNOSE AGGRESSIVE CANCER IN PELVIS – ABOVE-THE-KNEE LEG AMPUTATION – REMOVAL OF HALF OF PELVIS AND PORTION OF SPINE – SPINAL FUSION.

Los Angeles County, CA

In this medical malpractice matter, the female 16-year-old plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to timely perform diagnostic testing and diagnose the plaintiff’s pelvic osteosarcoma. As a result of the delay in diagnosis, the plaintiff suffered an above-the-knee amputation of her right leg, as well as the removal of half of her pelvis and a portion of her spine. The defendant medical group denied negligence, and maintained that the plaintiff had no red flags, and the pursuit of conservative treatment first was the proper standard of care.

In August ________, when the female plaintiff was age 16 years old, she began to experience low back pain. It grew worse and in January ________, she began to experience pain that radiated down her right leg. In February ________, she went to the family chiropractor who was not affiliated with the defendant. The treatments were unsuccessful, and the chiropractor, concerned about the cause of the plaintiff’s pain, urged her to go to the defendant Kaiser Permanente (Southern California Permanente Medical Group) in order to obtain an MRI. The plaintiff went to the defendant’s Woodland Hills facility in March ________ with her mother and saw both the plaintiff’s primary care physician and a physical therapist.

Between March ________ and June ________, both the plaintiff and her mother repeatedly requested an MRI from her treating physicians as the chiropractor suggested. Both physicians refused to order the MRI, failed to document the MRI request in her medical records, and later claimed that she never requested the MRI.

In June ________, the plaintiff’s mother again requested the MRI, and finally it was ordered and the test performed on July 2, ________. The MRI disclosed that the cause of the plaintiff’s pain was a large, aggressive tumor in her pelvis known as a pelvic osteosarcoma. After months of chemotherapy, the plaintiff underwent surgeries that lasted a total of 22 hours, and which included an above-the-knee amputation of her right leg, removal of half of her pelvis and a portion of her spine, and fusing of her spine.

The plaintiff filed suit in the Superior Court of California’s Los Angeles Division for medical malpractice, naming as the defendant Southern California Permanente Medical Group, the medical group for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. The plaintiff alleged that she presented with numerous red flags during her initial visits with her physicians, including complaints of severe nighttime pain, severe or progressive neurologic deficit, major motor weakness, a clumsy gait abnormality, falling, fever, and a failure to improve in six weeks of conservative treatment. Despite yoga, pilates, oral steroids, muscle relaxants, ibuprofen, acupuncture, physical therapy, heat and ice, her symptoms progressively worsened.

The plaintiff contended that the defendant’s physicians refused to give her an MRI on four different occasions. The plaintiff contended that as a result of the repeated refusal to give the plaintiff an MRI, and the delay in diagnosis, the tumor grew and spread to a location that eventually required amputation of her leg. The plaintiff maintained that an earlier diagnosis of the cancer could have spared her leg and she would have required much less surgery. The plaintiff argued that had defendant given her the MRI earlier, they would have been able to diagnose her cancer four months sooner and would have likely been able to salvage her right leg.

The defendant denied the allegations and maintained that the plaintiff did not present with any red flags in March ________. As a result, a conservative course of treatment was the proper standard of care. The defendant argued that neither the plaintiff nor her mother ever requested the MRI, and the plaintiff’s pursuit of alternative treatments including yoga and acupuncture delayed diagnosis and were contributing factors. The defendant maintained that by the time that the plaintiff presented in March ________, her tumor was already in a location and of a size that required the amputation surgery. Earlier diagnosis would not have changed the surgical outcome. In fact, the defendant argued that the plaintiff had the "good fortune" to meet the treating surgeon that ultimately saved her life. The plaintiff sought recovery of damages for future medical expenses, future lost earnings, and pain and suffering. The matter proceeded to trial over a period of four weeks.

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury deliberated for one day and returned its verdict in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant. The jury awarded the then 23-year-old plaintiff the total sum of $________ in damages, consisting of $________ in medical expenses; $________ in loss of earnings; $________ in past economic loss, and $________ in future economic loss.

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