Medical Malpractice Case Report: $1.7 Million Settlement for Negligent Failure to Timely Diagnose and Treat Oral Cancer

Firm Partner Kathleen Flynn Peterson reached a $1.7 million medical malpractice settlement in a case involving a negligent failure to timely diagnose and treat oral cancer in young woman.  Read the following Minnesota Association for Justice (MAJ) Minnesota Case Report, Volume 28, Number 5, October 2009:

Selected Results*  

(Excerpts taken with permission from Minnesota Association for Justice (MAJ) “Minnesota Case Reports”)

This case of dental negligence arose out of the failure to timely diagnose and treat oral cancer in a woman who was in her 30's at the time of diagnosis.  Over a four year period of time, she had been referred, on multiple occasions, to an oral surgeon for evaluation of a lesion on her tongue.  Following the findings and final evaluation of the patient, the oral surgeon referred this patient to an oral medicine specialist who evaluated the lesion and provided treatment over the course of the next seven months.  In the seventh month, a biopsy of the tongue lesion was performed that resulted in the diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma of the left lateral tongue.  After extensive staging an devaluation, the patient was diagnosed with advanced Stage III, T2, N1, MO Grade 111 squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue.  Because of the metastatic disease, the patient required extensive head and neck surgery as well as radiation and chemotherapy, resulting in numerous side effects and complications.  Patient's treating physicians as well as plaintiff's oncologist opined that the delay in diagnosis resulted in a five-year survival rate of 30 - 40% and that, had the diagnosis been made on a timely basis, the patient's chances for five-year survival would have been greater than 70%.

Defendant's alleged that patient was negligent in failing to return for follow-up evaluations.  Further, defendants' experts alleged that defendant property evaluated patient.  Additionally, defendants' experts as well as plaintiff's treating physician opined that it is impossible to determine at what point in time plaintiff's oral lesion became cancerous and further, whether earlier diagnosis would have been possible prior to metastasis of the disease.  Plaintiff's treating physician agreed that it would be speculative to comment as to whether patient had Stage 1 or Stage II cancer at any specific period of time  and further, what the specific growth rate of her tumor was or how long the tumor had been present.

Settlement:  $1.7 million for all defendants