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Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro
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Family awarded $1.5 million for missed melanoma

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A Virginia Beach jury recently awarded a family $1.5 million for the death of a 51 year old caused by the failure to diagnose cancer.

The cancer started as a raw spot on a finger. The doctors treated it as just an infection. Only with a second biopsy did the doctors figure out that this was a melanoma. Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. Unfortunately, the pathologist did not test for the melanoma with the first biopsy. By the time of the discovery of the cancer, it had already spread to the man’s lungs and brain.

Doctors hired by the doctors’ insurance company tried to claim that the delay in diagnosis did not make a difference. Their argument was that the melanoma was already so widespread that even if it had been found earlier, it would not have saved the man. Obviously, the jury disagreed.

As is typical in these cases, the defense experts were high powered doctors, including a Chairman of Surgical Onocologist at MCV in Richmond and a professor from Harvard. We, on the plaintiff’s side, have to know the right doctors with good credentials who will stand up for what is right.

The defense also argued that a reasonable work up had been done by the doctors because melanoma is more typically found on moles and birth marks, although they also occur in places like nail beds, the soles of feet and on palms. The award was very close to the cap for medical malpractice in Virginia, which is currently at $1.7 million, no matter what harm the doctor causes . Medical negligence is tough work for the attorney for plaintiff, but good results like these make it seem worthwhile.