Medical Malpractice Case Report: $2.5 million settlement for mishandling of biopsy slides resulting in healthy woman having an unnecessary double mastectomy

Chris Messerly achieved a settlement of $2.5 million in a medical malpractice case for the mishandling of biopsy slides which resulted in a healthy woman having an unnecessary double mastectomy.  Read the following Minnesota Association for Justice (MAJ), Minnesota Case Report:

Selected Results*

(Excerpts taken with permission from Minnesota Trial Lawyer Association’s (MTLA) “Minnesota Case Reports”)

The plaintiff underwent a routine mammogram as part of a physical which revealed a questionable area.  A needle biopsy was performed.  Tissue from the needle biopsy was placed on slides bearing the plaintiff’s name and unique hospital number.  Defendant pathologists ignored dozens of mandatory safety checks and mixed up the plaintiff’s slides and paperwork with those of another woman.  Pathologist 1 had the plaintiff’s paperwork and another woman’s slides (which likewise bore the other woman’s name and hospital number).  Pathologist 2 had the other woman’s slides and the plaintiff’s paperwork.  Both pathologists 1 and 2 chose not to compare the names and numbers on each of the slides with the names and numbers on the mixed up paperwork accompanying the slides.

To compound the tragedy, pathologist 1 asked pathologist 2 to look at the other woman’s slides. In turn, pathologist 2 asked pathologist 1 to look at the plaintiff’s slides. Again, both pathologists chose not to compare any of the unique identifying information on the slides with the accompanying paperwork.  As a result, pathologist 1 erroneously diagnosed the plaintiff with breast cancer.  Pathologist 2 erroneously reported that the other woman had no breast cancer at all.  The plaintiff had the option of treating her breast cancer with a double mastectomy, a single mastectomy, or a lumpectomy.  Given her young age and her desire to do whatever she could to maximize the chances of cure, she chose the double mastectomy.

On the day of discharge from the hospital following the mastectomy, her surgeon told her that there was a mix-up and that in fact she never had cancer at all.  She was told she could now go home.  Unfortunately, the plaintiff developed a series of severe infections as a result of the unnecessary surgery which required multiple additional surgeries.  To date, the plaintiff has still had no reconstruction performed due to these problems.


Case Name: Woman & Her Husband v. Pathologists and Pathology Lab
Date: October, 2004
Attorneys: Chris Messerly
William J. Maddix