Jury Awards $1.5M in Misdiagnosis Lawsuit

Jury Awards $1.5M in Misdiagnosis Lawsuit

Verdict reached after cancer victim's death

The family of a man who died from melanoma—a serious type of skin cancer— was awarded $1.5 million last week after a jury determined the defendant's actions directly resulted in the victim's death.

Paul Vaughan filed the medical malpractice lawsuit against Pathology Sciences Medical Group last year after a doctor failed to properly diagnose the cancer on his middle finger. He was active in the lawsuit before his illness overwhelmed him. Vaughan died on Jan. 31, 2005 at the age of 51.

“It was a tragic error with very serious consequences for the family,” said plaintiff attorney Jon Thornton. “He [Vaughan] didn't want others to go through what he had gone through.”

A Preventable Mistake

In 2003, Vaughan visited his doctor after he developed a sore on his finger he thought was the result of a splinter. The sore, under the nail bed of his right middle finger, split the nail in half.

Vaughan's doctor referred him to a hand surgeon, who preformed a biopsy of the growth and sent it over to Pathology Sciences for analysis. According to the lawsuit, the pathologist Dr. Anne Schiller only tested the growth for one type of cancer—carcinoma.

Vaughan was told the growth was nonmalignant and didn't pose any life-threatening risks. However, Vaughan's finger problems worsened and doctors diagnosed him with an infection and prescribed antibiotics.

Eventually, the growth began to affect his entire arm causing severe pain and swelling. Vaughan underwent another biopsy, which revealed he had melanoma. By that time, the diagnosis was too late and Vaughan's cancer had spread to his liver, lungs, and spleen. He underwent aggressive cancer treatment before he died in 2005.

According to Thornton, the evidence presented at the trial proved that Vaughan's death “was entirely preventable” had doctors properly and quickly diagnosed his cancer. “This should not have happened to this family,” Thornton said.

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