Darian Wisekal, like many women, had a routine Pap smear in 2008. As with many women, the lab work was handled by Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings, a Fortune 500 company and one of the world’s largest clinical laboratory networks.
But that test and another two years later were misread by overworked technicians. Unknown to the Wellington mother, she had a large cervical tumor. She died of cancer at 37 in November 2011.
On Wednesday, a federal jury in West Palm Beach awarded $15.8 million to her husband, John, and two teenage daughters in their lawsuit against LabCorp.
After two days of deliberation, the jury found Wisekal was 25 percent to blame because she initially ignored some signs of illness.
The Wisekal family’s lead attorney Sean Domnick, a partner at Domnick & Shevin in Palm Beach Gardens, said a LabCorp technician testified the company often makes her review more than 80 Pap slides a day and she often doesn’t have time for lunch.
“If that’s true, what you are doing is forcing workers to view more and more slides every day,” Domnick said. “It’s such a clear case of them putting their profits ahead of patient safety.”
Attorney Stephen Rosenthal, a partner at Podhurst Orseck in Miami, assisted Domnick on the case. He said the 2008 slide clearly showed pre-invasive cancer. “Our pathologist said it wasn’t even close,” he said.
Attorneys for the Burlington, N.C.-based LabCorp told the jury it’s difficult to read Pap smears and some physical changes can be subtle.
LabCorp reported a profit of $5.8 billion in 2013. A message left for a corporate spokesman was not returned by deadline.
Jones Day partner Carol A. Hogan of Chicago, lead defense attorney, also did not return a call for comment.
Domnick said defense attorneys told Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley they plan to appeal.
Domnick said the defense attorneys waged a “scorched earth” campaign against the Wisekal family in fighting the wrongful death lawsuit.
“Their attitude was how dare this family have the temerity to tell LabCorp it made a mistake,” he said.