In November 2005, plaintiff Lee Arnette Zapel, 56, president of a medical supplies company, was diagnosed with cervical cancer during a hysterectomy. The exploratory surgery was due to abdominal pain that she experienced for months leading up to the surgery, which resulted in numerous tests and hospitalizations, including a change in her OB-GYN the previous month.
Zapel, who received annual Pap tests, alleged that PCA Southeast, a Columbia [Tenn]-based pathology lab, failed to detect cervical abnormalities in her slides in 2003 and 2004.
Zapel sued the lab for medical malpractice. The defendant stipulated to negligence for misrepresenting the 2004 Pap test, but contested the 2003 test. The cervical abnormalities that the defendant failed to detect in Zapel’s 2003 and 2004 Pap test slides were high-grade lesions, which were an early form of Stage 1 cancer, according to plaintiffs’ counsel.
Had the defendant detected the lesions, a cervical biopsy would have been ordered to reveal the cancer and a hysterectomy would have been performed, it was alleged. The hysterectomy would have rendered a 100 percent cure that would have precluded any need for chemo-radiation treatment that Zapel eventually underwent, opined the plaintiffs’ gynecological oncologist.
The defendant denied the allegations. The defense pathologist concluded that the 2003 Pap test showed no abnormalities. If there were abnormalities in the 2003 test as the plaintiff alleged, it would have been non-cancerous high-grade lesions, according to the defense OB-GYN expert.
Following the hysterectomy, Zapel underwent 23 radiation treatments concurrent with chemotherapy through January 2009, which, according to her, caused small bowel obstructions and stress fractures in her pelvic region in June 2008. This resulted in multiple hospitalizations.
She sought approximately $113,000 in past medical treatment and an unspecified amount in past lost wages, having worked sporadically throughout her treatment and hospitalizations.
Zapel’s internist/gastroenterologist and radiation oncologist both testified that her small bowel obstruction and stress fractures resulted from the chemo-radiation therapy and would be chronic for the remainder of her life, with the possibility of surgical intervention.
She sought non-quantified amounts for past and future pain and suffering and emotional distress. Her husband claimed loss of consortium.
Zapel recounted the abdominal pain that she experienced leading up to her hysterectomy; knowing something was wrong, but being told otherwise by the medical community; and the fear of having cancer and the possibility of dying. The bowel obstructions and stress fractures are something that she lives with daily and restrict her from stressful situations and eating certain foods. Zapel said that she fears the possibility of having to undergo surgery for her bowel obstruction because it would cause permanent impairment.
The defense OB/GYN expert and radiation oncologist said that the chemo-radiation therapy did not cause small bowel obstructions or pelvic fractures.
The jury found that the defendant didn’t deviate from the standard of care in 2003. The plaintiff was awarded $5,513,241.75 for the defendant’s 2004 stipulated negligence.
Lee Arnette Zapel
$113,242 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost
$1,000,000 Personal Injury: Past Loss Enjoyment Of Life
$600,000 Personal Injury: Future Loss Enjoyment Of Life
$400,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering
$350,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering
$800,000 Personal Injury: future mental anguish
$400,000 Personal Injury: loss of earnings
$1,000,000 Personal Injury: permanent injury or impairments
$700,000 Personal Injury: past mental anguish
Theodore Gregory Zapel
$150,000 Personal Injury: loss of consortium
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