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A Long Island, N.Y., jury has awarded more than $15 million to the family of a woman whose Pap smear was misread, which allowed an undiagnosed cervical cancer to spread and eventually kill her. After the cancer was detected, Karen Pedone suffered about three years of unsuccessful debilitating treatment that included radiation and chemotherapy. Plaintiff’s attorney Steven Pegalis of Pegalis & Erickson in Lake Success, N.Y., successfully argued that had Pedone been properly diagnosed, she would have survived. The 35-year-old mother died in 1997, leaving two young daughters and a husband, who died six months later of a heart attack. The children now live with their paternal grandparents. In 1996, Pedone, who had worked part-time as a medical biller, sued her gynecologist for malpractice and the lab, Metpath, a predecessor company of Quest Diagnostics, for its failure to spot the abnormalities in the smear. Estate of Karen Pedone v. Metpath/CCL, No. 02199/1996 (Nassau Co., N.Y., Sup. Ct.). The jury, in a 5-1 vote, cleared the doctor of not having told the lab that Pedone had previously experienced uterine bleeding. After a two-week trial, it took the jury just five hours to unanimously find the lab culpable for Pedone’s death. Metpath had also blamed the doctor, claiming it would have taken a closer look at the slide if it had known about the bleeding. “The clinical information was not in the requisition for the Pap smear,” said Metpath’s attorney, Dennis McCoy of Buffalo, N.Y.’s Hiscock and Barclay. “Had the lab known about the bleeding it would have automatically triggered a rescreening, and we would have caught it.” McCoy added that all labs randomly rescreen a certain percentage of slides, but that the slide of a woman with a significant clinical history, which puts her at higher risk, always gets a second look. “No one argued that the abnormalities weren’t present,” McCoy said. “But it was our contention that every board-certified gynecologist should be aware of the importance of putting significant clinical history on the requisition form,” McCoy said. “Frankly, it’s a little disappointing that the jury didn’t see it that way.” LAB REPORT CRITICAL Michael Boranian of the Law Offices of Charles X. Connick of Mineola, N.Y., who represented Dr. Richard Halpert, said that Halpert believed that Pedone’s irregular uterine bleeding was due to a hormonal imbalance and “the jury clearly wasn’t convinced that such information ought to be on the report to a lab in order for them correctly interpret a slide.” At trial, the parties stipulated to $625,000 for the loss of Pedone’s services, should liability be found. The jury awarded $6.5 million for Pedone’s pain and suffering, and a combined $8 million for her children’s loss of guidance, which in New York state is considered an economic loss, although it is not subject to expert testimony. “That’s a somewhat controversial aspect of the wrongful-death statute,” McCoy said. “The jury’s award far exceeded by multiples the next highest jury award that has been sustained.” McCoy said he would move to have the award reduced. Pegalis wouldn’t second-guess the jury for letting the doctor off the hook, but he is adamant that no woman need experience such devastation again. “Regardless of this jury’s verdict on this set of facts,” Pegalis said, “in the future, it seems clear to me that doctors should know what a lab needs and the lab should let doctors know what the lab needs. There was a safety net in place that would have saved her life, but the doctor didn’t know it. But in 2003 this should never happen again.”

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