In the case of Chiarino v. United States, 2016 WL 3083379 (Southern District of Florida 5-31-2016)(Case No.15-cv-80465-MIDDLEBROOKS), the patient was awarded $500,000 for pain and suffering in compensation for the time between the patient’s cancer should have been diagnosed and when it actually was diagnosed. This was a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) case against the government for medical malpractice at a Veterans Affairs (VA) facility for care between September 2012 and April 2013.
Bladder Cancer Should Have Been Suspected On Initial Visit
Chiarino was a fighter jet mechanic and was honorably discharged in 1970. In 2012, he went to an emergency room at a VA facility complaining of hematuria. A CT was performed revealing diverticulitis in the bladder. An ultrasound did not reveal any stones in the bladder that could have been a source of pain. Thereafter, Chiarino saw a VA urologist who ordered urinalysis and cytology. It appears that cytology was never performed despite being ordered.
Things progressed in the meantime until a point where in 2013 he complained of low abdominal pain, pain when voiding, and bilateral groin pain radiating to the testes. At that point, a CT revealed a cancerous lesion in the bladder. The plaintiff’s expert suggested that bladder cancer should have been suspected upon the initial visit where there was a complaint of hematuria. Further, cytology is a standard workup that is used to determine whether a patient has cancer in the bladder.
After all the testimony and evidence was received (claims against the federal government are tried by a judge instead of a jury), the federal judge found that the delay in treatment did not cause Chiarino to need additional medical procedures (he needed these anyway for his Stage III cancer) but awarded $500,000 for pain and suffering for the delay in diagnosis and treatment which prolonged his suffering.
As a Florida medical malpractice lawyer, this is a bit of an usual result because we normally focus our efforts on a breach of the standard of care and causation (which means that the outcome would have been different). Considering that the judge found that there was no causation of additional medical treatment, one would normally expect that a pain and suffering award would not be made. However, Chiarino appears to have been deeply affected by his condition and the basis of the award was the timeliness of it (or lack thereof) even though the ultimate outcome was not impacted.