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A Dangerous Delay in Diagnosis

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Memphis, TNIt isn't easy to sue your doctor in Tennessee. Plaintiffs lose more medical malpractice suits they win in that state. But Courtney Hill's story of a lump in her breast--that doctors ignored until it was too late-proved to be so compelling that the jury recently awarded Hill and her husband $24 million.

Hill's verdict may be one of the largest amounts ever awarded in the jurisdiction to a medical malpractice plaintiff. Unfortunately, the money is cold comfort to 27-year-old Courtney Hill, her husband and young baby.

Hill's prognosis is grave, to say the least.

In 2003, Hill made an appointment to see the doctor and specifically mentioned a
small, dimpled lump she found in breast. Rather investigating the complaint, Hill's doctor dismissed the lump as a "fatty deposit or a cyst".

Hill became pregnant and over the next year made no less than 16 visits to Dr. Claudia Moise's office for prenatal care. After her baby was born, Hill noticed the lump was noticeably larger. On her next visit to the clinic, Dr. Moise's partner examined Hill and ordered a mammogram.

That "fatty deposit" was cancerous. Worse still, the cancer had spread to her liver. At the age of 25, Hill was diagnosed with terminal metastatic cancer.
"Fortunately her original complaint had been recorded when she called in for that first appointment," says attorney Jim Lees. "And, she was not sent for any diagnostic testing at that time."

In the end, Lees says the jury had to answer a simple question. "The jury ultimately was asked to decide whether doctors meet the standard of care for a young with a lump in her breast," he says. "Obviously, they did not. The lump should have been investigated from the beginning."

The jury awarded $11.85 million to Courtney Hill and an additional $11.75 to her husband. Courtney Hill was too sick to attend the trial.

Jim Lees is a principle with the firm of Hunt & Lees in Charleston, West Virginia. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston Salem, North Carolina (J.D. 1977) and West Virginia University (B.S. 1974)
The firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury, commercial litigation, insurance Law, workplace injury, wrongful discharge, auto accidents and sexual harassment as well as medical malpractice.



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