Phila. jury awards nearly $2 million to cancer patient who alleged untimely diagnosis

By Jon Campisi | Oct 29, 2012

A Philadelphia jury recently awarded nearly $2 million to a now-terminally

ill woman who sued medical professionals over allegations that they failed to timely diagnose her ovarian cancer.

Court records show that on Oct. 5, the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury found in favor of plaintiffs Lynn R. Forlano and her husband, Nicholas Forlano, in the amount of $1,971,455.09.

In early September 2010, the Northeast Philadelphia couple sued Cynthia Bergman, a doctor at Fox Chase Cancer Center, and various other defendants over claims that Lynn R. Forlano’s ovarian cancer was not diagnosed in a timely manner.

Four radiologists who were also initially sued were absolved of any liability and another original defendant in the litigation, Holy Redeemer Hospital, had been dismissed as a defendant, records show.

The jury verdict sheet shows that 100 percent of causal negligence was attributed to Bergman, Lynn Forlano’s gynecologic oncologist at Fox Chase, who began treating the plaintiff back in 2000 after Forlano’s then-doctor relocated out of state.

Forlano was initially diagnosed with state two tubo-ovarian cancer in 1999, after which she underwent surgery and chemotherapy.

It initially appeared that the cancer had been eradicated, the court record shows, and from 2000 to 2008, Forlano presented to Bergman for regular visits.

In July 2004, at the urging of Bergman, Forlano underwent a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis at Fox Chase, which revealed a mass had been developing inside the plaintiff’s body, according to the complaint.

The suit, however, claimed that Bergman never informed Forlano that any imaging study revealed any abnormal or dangerous findings.

“She [Bergman] continued to reassure Mrs. Forlano that all was well,” the lawsuit had stated.

A note from a January 2006 visit to Bergman’s office stated that the oncologist believed her patient had a harmless cyst, the suit stated.

Again, Forlano underwent a CT scan of the lower abdomen that revealed an enlarging mass.

And yet again, the doctor told Forlano that there was nothing serious to worry about.

The plaintiff continued to see Bergman for regular checkups.

In the summer of 2007, Forlano underwent another screening that revealed a mass likely representing a recurrent ovarian or fallopian tube tumor, the record shows.

Forlano was admitted to Holy Redeemer Hospital in August 2008 for swelling of her left leg; she remained hospitalized for about a week for treatment of a blood clot and pulmonary embolus.

Under doctor recommendation, Forlano underwent a scan in late September 2008, whose findings were “suspicious” for recurrent cancer, the lawsuit stated.

Nevertheless, Bergman reassured Forlano that the scan did not reveal cancer and that the mass in her pelvis was not dangerous, the suit claimed.

Forlano went on to seek another gynecologic oncology opinion, and a subsequent biopsy performed in early December 2008 at Temple University Hospital revealed recurrence of the cancer for which Forlano had undergone surgery back in 1999.

The jury verdict sheet shows that Lynn Forlano was awarded $171,455.09 for past medical and related expenses; $750,000 for past noneconomic expenses such as physical pain, mental anguish, discomfort and inconvenience; and $750,000 for future noneconomic losses.

Nicholas Forlano was awarded $300,000 for loss of consortium.

The trial convened on Sept. 24 and concluded with the jury verdict on Oct. 5, the record shows.

On Oct. 15, Suzanne M. Bachovin, of the firm Christie, Pabarue, Mortensen and Young, who represented Bergman and Fox Chase Cancer Center, filed a motion for post trial relief on behalf of her clients.

In the defense motion, Bachovin seeks a new trial on the basis that Forlano’s claims were allegedly time barred.

The defense attorney argues in her motion that Forlano knew, and had reason to know, of her injury prior to January 2008, and that the “bedrock evidence supporting such a finding includes her testimony, the testimony and medical records of her treating physicians, and her own expert testimony.”

Bachovin is arguing that the discovery rule doesn’t apply and that the plaintiffs’ claims were time barred.

In addition to the motion for a new trial, Bachovin also sought the ordering of the full trial transcript to be provided on an expeditious basis.

The court docket shows that on Oct. 25, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Susan I. Schulman granted the motion to have the trial transcript be provided to the parties as expeditiously as possible.

The record shows that the judge also ordered defense counsel to file and serve a brief in support of the motion for post trial relief within 30 days after receiving the trial transcripts.

The Forlano’s were represented at trial by attorney Marsha F. Santangelo of The Beasley Firm.

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