She had been going to the medical clinic at a municipal hospital here in New York. She had been going there for more than 15 years. She went for regular check-ups. She went when she had a cold or the flu. She went there for all of her medical care.
She liked the young doctors in the clinic. She saw a new one every time she went. They were residents; doctors in training. They were sweet. They were polite. They did different tests and prescribed her medication.
Every time she went to the clinic, a nurse drew her blood and asked for a urine specimen. When she returned to the clinic a week or two later for the results of her tests, she was always told everything was normal.
She had complaints from time to time. A few times she complained to the young doctors about seeing some blood in the toilet bowel when she went to the bathroom. Other times she told the doctors she saw drops of blood when she urinated.
Each time she was reassured that the tests were normal.
There was one big problem that she didn’t know about...the tests results were not normal.
Her visits to the clinic increased in frequency. She was becoming short of breath. She was noticing bright red blood in the toilet bowel every time she wiped. She was fatigued and losing weight.
Finally, one of the senior doctors decided this patient needed some advanced testing including CAT scan imaging.
The results were not good. They revealed that she had advanced stage bladder cancer. Stage IV to be exact. She was dying and didn’t yet know it.
When they broke the news to her, she was devastated.
“What are the symptoms of bladder cancer?” her daughters asked the doctor.
“Bleeding when going to the bathroom is one symptom,” came the reply.
“But she told the doctors about her bleeding!” her daughters exclaimed.
The doctor asked to see the clinic records.
What he saw was shocking. The urine tests showed she had advanced levels of red blood cells that required further investigation. The problem was that nobody recognized this. The doctor explained that this type of bladder cancer, if recognized early, is treatable and has an excellent prognosis.
This was devastating news to her daughters. It was bad enough learning that mom was now dying of advanced metastatic bladder cancer. But now they also learned that if this was recognized earlier, she could have had surgery which would have removed the cancer and she would have had an excellent chance of survival.
When her daughters came to me, the wrongdoing was fairly obvious. My experts confirmed there was wrongdoing which led to current condition. During my investigation of her tragic case, she died.
Since the malpractice occurred in a municipal hospital here in New York, we needed to file a document known as a “Notice of Claim” to put the municipality on notice about a lawsuit that we intended to file shortly.
All municipal hospitals in the Greater New York metropolitan area are owned and operated by a corporation known as the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. There are strict requirements about what must be included within this ‘Notice of Claim’. Importantly, an injured victim or their surviving family has only 90 days from the date of the wrongdoing within which to file this document.
After that, they would have only one year and ninety days within which to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice and wrongful death. (These are the current time limits to file- as of March 31, 2013. IMPORTANT!! YOU CANNOT RELY ON THE TIME LIMITS IN THIS ARTICLE SINCE THE LAW CHANGES AND BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, THE TIME LIMIT MAY HAVE CHANGED. THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW FOR SURE WHETHER YOUR MATTER IS TIMELY IS TO PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL: 516-487-8207.)
A notice of claim was timely filed and a lawsuit was timely filed as well. During the lawsuit process it became obvious that we had a very strong case.
The problem with dealing the a municipality is that they have no real incentive to try and settle a case early. In fact, in this case, the defense refused to negotiate until I was picking a jury to begin trial. It was only during jury selection that was I able to successfully settle this wrongful death medical malpractice case to the satisfaction of my clients.