Failure to Diagnose

When you go to a doctor for a regular checkup or with a concern — whether it is a suspicious symptom, a nagging complaint or a sudden pain — you expect that doctor to practice good and appropriate medicine. You rightly expect the doctor to take a full medical history, to properly and completely examine you, to order the full range of appropriate tests and then read the results carefully. All of those components when combined diligently and properly result in what doctors refer to as a differential diagnosis: This is what is probably the problem. And from there, the doctor will prescribe the appropriate treatment and care.

Unfortunately, doctors sometimes miss a step. They might fail to listen carefully; not conduct a full physical examination; miss a key symptom; fail to order an important test; misread an X-ray, MRI, CT scan or blood test; or simply fail to put the pieces together carefully or completely.

At KDLM, we have handled hundreds of cases involving failure to diagnose. No two are exactly alike. Here are three representative examples of the range of problems:

  • Failure to diagnose Stevens-Johnson syndrome — In 2012, Jaqueline Martin, a 45-year-old woman, went to a New York City hospital emergency room where she was examined and admitted to the hospital. Unfortunately, she was treated for only one of the problems she presented with and was discharged too quickly. The doctors had missed the much more serious condition: Stevens-Johnson syndrome. A horrible series of events befell Ms. Martin: more failures to diagnose her condition, delays in treating her and improper care. As a result, she was left grievously injured. Tom Moore tried this case before a Bronx Supreme Court jury, which awarded Ms. Martin $120,000,000.
  • Failure to diagnose spinal injury — In 2015, Ebony Curry, a 27-year-old woman, fell down the stairs in the home she shared with her father and brother. She was rushed to the emergency room at a nearby Brooklyn hospital. There, the ER doctor ordered a CT scan of Ms. Curry's neck and spine. But the radiologist misread the films and failed to recognize that Ms. Curry had suffered a severe spinal cord injury. Disastrously, she was sent home. Twelve hours later, a more senior radiologist recognized the mistake and entered it into the hospital record. But no one contacted Ms. Curry or her family to advise her to get immediate medical attention. As a result of this failure to diagnose, Ms. Curry suffered horrible injuries and complications. Tom Moore tried this case in Brooklyn, and while the jury was deliberating, the defendants settled for $9,560,000.
  • Failure to diagnose jaundice — In 2013, Tom Moore tried a case that was a textbook example of a doctor and hospital's failure to diagnose a common but dangerous condition. Jaelin Sense was born at a Brooklyn hospital in 2007 and inappropriately sent home less than 48 hours after his birth despite his rapidly yellowing eyes and the concerns his mother expressed to doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel. The jaundice in baby Jaelin quickly infected his brain and almost killed him. Today, Jaelin is severely handicapped because of this failure to diagnose a common but dangerous and treatable condition. Tom Moore tried this case before a Brooklyn jury, which awarded Jaelin and his parents $26,000,000.

Failure to diagnose is an all too common problem in hospitals and doctors' offices. If you or a loved one has been injured by what you believe is a failure to diagnose a serious condition or a delay in treatment, talk to us. Our lawyers, medical staff, investigators and paralegals understand the challenges of bringing a successful medical malpractice action based on failure to diagnose. We will discuss your situation with you in complete confidence and there is never a charge for a consultation. Call us today at 646-733-4072 or complete our online contact form.

"Avoidable errors by doctors and hospitals result in 250,000 deaths annually in America."

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Study

Published in BMJ (British Medical Journal) May 2016