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Medical Malpractice - Verdicts & Settlements

Failure to Send X-rays for Evaluation - Yields $1.9 Million Settlement

Gustinucci v. an occupational medicine specialist

$1.9 Million Settlement

Date of Settlement: Aug. 27, 2004

Court and Case Number: C.P. Luzerne 5567-C of 2001.

Judge: Hugh Mundy.

Type of Action: Medical Malpractice.

Injuries: Above-knee amputation; increased risk of metastatic disease.

Plaintiffs' Attorneys: Joseph A. Quinn Jr. and Michelle M. Quinn, Hourigan Kluger & Quinn, Kingston.

Defense Attorney: Bruce Coyer, O'Malley Harris Durkin & Perry, Scranton.

Plaintiffs' Experts: Richard Paul Bonfiglio, M.D., physical medicine and rehabilitation, Murrysville; Steven Gitelis, M.D., orthopedic oncology, Chicago; Barry M. Shmookler, M.D., pathology; Rockville, Md.; Lawrence D. Weis, M.D., orthopedic surgery and oncology, Georgetown, Conn.; Clifford Beinart, M.D., radiology, New York; Patricia L. Chilleri, M.S., rehabilitation, Kingston; Richard Fischbein, M.D., psychiatry, Kingston; Andrew G. Verzilli, Ph.D., economist, Kintnersville; Harry A. Doyle, M.D., psychiatry and neurology, Philadelphia; Mona Goldman Yudkoff, R.N., rehabilitation, Bala Cynwyd; Robert D. Voogt, Ph.D., life care and rehabilitation, Virginia Beach, Va.

Defense Experts: Richard G. Schmidt, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Philadelphia; Arthur S. Patchefsky, M.D., pathology, Hershey; Kenneth E. Brumberger, M.D., radiology, Philadelphia.

Comments: After twisting his right leg at work in August 1998, Eugene Gustinucci, then 46, saw an occupational medicine specialist at Northeastern Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, according to his attorney, Michelle M. Quinn.

The specialist diagnosed Gustinucci as suffering from a medial collateral ligament sprain and advised him to return to the office for an x-ray, the attorney said. Gustinucci returned to the office two days later to have a right knee x-ray taken: the specialist interpreted the x-ray as showing an area of calcification and an area of osteonecrosis. According to Quinn the specialist testified that based on the x-ray study, he determined that a bone tumor was within his differential diagnosis and that he intended to have the films sent out for a radiological interpretation.

The films, however, were not sent out for evaluation, Quinn said.

Quinn claimed there was no system in place at Northeastern to guarantee that films requiring radiological interpretation were sent out for evaluation by radiologists. According to defense attorney Bruce Coyer, there was no written policy or procedure governing the practice but there was a system in place. He declined further comment.

The plaintiffs' suit also alleged that the specialist failed to advise Gustinucci of his findings and that he did nothing to follow up regarding the studies. Accordingly, the plaintiffs claimed, an extraskeletal chondromyxoid sarcoma remained undiagnosed until Gustinucci reinjured his knee 31 months later.

After consultation with an orthopedic oncologist following the reinjury, Gustinucci underwent an above-knee amputation of his right lower extremity on May 22, 2001, Quinn said. A computed tomography imaging scan of the thorax performed at that time revealed questionable metastatic disease. Consequently, Gustinucci continues to be monitored by way of serial diagnostic studies.

PLEASE NOTE: Every case is fact specific, and these results do not guaranty the same results will be obtained in a different case.