Sanchez v. Defendant Pathologist

  • Circuit Court of Cook County (Hon. John B. Grogan)01/14/2010
    Counsel: Sherri M. Arrigo
    Client: Defendant Pathologist
    Outcome: Not Guilty

Synopsis:

On January 14, 2010, a Cook County jury found in favor of the firm's client, a pathologist represented by Sherri M. Arrigo.

Plaintiff's decedent, 9 year-old Demitry Sanchez, underwent removal of a mass in the left thigh on August 6, 2003 after bumping his thigh on a futon couch. The surgeon's impression was of a left thigh hematoma with sub-fascial cyst. The mass was sent to pathology and the pathology slides were reviewed by the defendant pathologist.

After reviewing the slides and speaking with the surgeon, the defendant issued a final pathology report indicating benign findings consistent with a hemorrhagic cyst. In March 2004, the left thigh mass re-occurred and the child was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer that had spread to the lungs. Despite aggressive treatment with surgery and chemotherapy, the child died of the disease in September 2005.

Plaintiff alleged that the defendant negligently misread the August 6, 2003 pathology slides, causing a seven-month delay in diagnosis. Plaintiff's expert opined that the cancer would have been Stage I or II if diagnosed in August 2003 and the child would have survived with proper treatment. Defendant acknowledged that, in retrospect, the August 6, 2003 slides did show cancer, which was not diagnosed by the defendant.

The defense argued, however, that the defendant had nonetheless complied with the standard of care because her interpretation of the slides as benign, although later found to be erroneous, was reasonable based on the information available at that time. The plaintiff's pathology expert admitted on cross-exam that pathology is an imperfect science, that pathologist's deal with limited information, that benign and malignant conditions can look similar under the microscope, and that a pathologist can miss a cancer diagnosis without being negligent.

The defendant further argued that the child's had a particularly virulent and aggressive cancer that never responded well to any treatment and that the cancer most likely had already metastasized in August 2003; therefore, the seven month delay in diagnosis did not contribute to Demitry's death.

In closing argument, plaintiff asked the jury to award approximately $8.5 million. After several hours of thoughtful deliberation, the jury returned a verdict for the defendant.