July 2, 2011, ERIE, PA — Juries are reluctant to hold doctors responsible, even when the evidence of their carelessness and the tragedy of the resultant harm is great. Still, when the case is thoroughly prepared and well-tried, the plaintiff has a chance. Unfortunately, for many injured patients, the justice available in a courtroom comes far too late.
Such was the case in a Luzerne County courtroom. In Zawatski v. Valenta , (Court of Common Pleas, Luzerne County, April 19, 2011), a jury of twelve found that a gynecologist had said he’d removed a cancerous ovary and fallopian tube when, in fact, he’d negligently left the diseased tissue behind, ultimately leading to the otherwise avoidable death of Sharon Zawatski.
The details of the case can be found in our Articles section HERE , but the gist of the case was that the surgeon told the patient he’d removed the diseased tissue and the patient believed she needed no other treatment. In fact, the jury found that the doctor had negligently failed to remove the left fallopian tube and ovary and, within a year, the cancer was back.
Nearly two years after the cancer’s return, the patient started a medical malpractice lawsuit against the surgeon. She believed, based on the evidence available to her, that the surgeon had not removed the left fallopian tube and ovary, despite what she’d been told. Predictably, the doctor and his lawyers denied responsibility and suggested the case was “ridiculous” and “fanciful.”
After the litigation wore on for more than two years, Sharon Zawatski succumbed to her cancer. The autopsy revealed that the left fallopian tube had NOT been removed, just as she’d claimed in her lawsuit. Still, the defendant doctor refused to acknowledge fault. Instead, the defendant doctor claimed that the pathologist who performed the autopsy had made a mistake. There was no fallopian tube, the defendant doctor claimed. The pathologist had confused a ureter for a fallopian tube.
Three years after Sharon Zawatski died, the jury agreed with her and awarded her surviving family members almost $2 million in damages. The defendant doctor and his lawyer remain defiant. They have filed post-trial motions and promise to appeal. Still, for the family, the Pennsylvania medical malpractice verdict must offer some vindication and, hopefully, some comfort.
The defense strategy of deny, delay and defend to the end is nothing new, of course. It is the typical approach we see in even the most egregious of Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases. Nevertheless, it must have been an injury unto itself that Ms. Zawatski, during her last days, and then her surviving family after were forced to fight with the surgeon for five years to acknowledge the truth of the tragic surgical mistake and the responsibility that he bore for her death.
Congratulations to Lawyer David Selingo who represented Ms. Zawatski’s family.
More Cancer Mistake Resources
You can find more cancer mistake information in our medical malpractice library, including articles on:
* Cancer Misdiagnosis
* Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis/Delay in Diagnosis
* Colon Cancer, Rectal Cancer and Colorectal Cancer
* Pediatric Misdiagnosis
Contact a Pennsylvania Cancer Mistake Attorney
The Erie surgical mistake lawyers at Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. have the knowledge and experience to accurately assess and thoroughly prepare your case. You may be entitled to compensation and we’d like to help you. Contact us today for a free evaluation of your case at 814-833-7100 or toll free at 814-833-7100 or use our online contact form .