Delay in Diagnosing Bone Cancer
The Kuchta Case
Our client, Mr. Kuchta, then age fifty-two, was originally treated by the Defendant Primary Care Physician because he was experiencing left buttock/leg pain for approximately two months. Without obtaining a radiograph, the Defendant made a diagnosis of left greater trochanter (hip) bursitis. He gave Mr. Kuchta an injection of corticosteroid in his hip and prescribed Motrin, 800 mg. three times a day for two weeks.
Although Mr. Kuchta’s left hip continued to bother him over the next three and half years, when Defendant would learn of this by telephone, the Defendant insisted on merely refilling the Motrin prescriptions rather than requesting Mr. Kuchta to return for a reassessment. Remarkably, even after a visit years later where Mr. Kuchta continued to complain of left hip pain, the Defendant persisted in his diagnosis of greater trochanter bursitis and still rather than obtaining a radiograph or referring Mr. Kuchta to a specialist, the Defendant repeated an injection of corticosteroids and prescribed more Motrin.
Incredibly, when Mr. Kuchta returned complaining of the same symptoms months later, the Defendant’s action was to again inject corticosteroids and prescribe yet more Motrin. Only when Mr. Kuchta’s symptoms persisted for many more months was Mr. Kuchta sent for an orthopedic evaluation. Unfortunately, a chondrosarcoma (a tumor of the cartilage of the bone which has a tendency to spread into nearby soft tissues) was diagnosed. Despite extensive surgery, this chondrosarcoma metastasized into Mr. Kuchta’s lungs. As a result, Mr. Kuchta was required to receive chemotherapy in an attempt to halt the spread of his cancer. Suit was filed in Allegheny County against the Defendant PCP.
At trial, our expert opined that it was inconceivable that any reasonable internist would persist (in the face of continued hip pain) in refilling months and months of high-dose Motrin and even repeating the steroid injections without either pursuing a different diagnosis (by obtaining a radiograph) or referring Mr. Kuchta to an orthopedist. Further, the expert opined that the Defendant’s negligence led to an unforgivable delay in the diagnosis of Mr. Kuchta’s cancer, leading to tragic consequences (i.e. spread of cancer to Mr. Kuchta’s lungs).
Both the defendant internist and his expert witness, also a specialist in internal medicine, testified that it was good medicine to see a patient with agonizing hip pain for three and half years without taking an x-ray or suggesting an appointment with an orthopedic specialist. The defendant made no settlement offer, despite this disingenuous defense.
The jury rendered a verdict in Mr. Kuchta’s favor in the amount of $360,000. Tragically, two months after trial, Mr. Kuchta passed away due to the spread of the cancer to his lungs.