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Court determined negligence claim plausible given postpartum cancer diagnosis. Pezulich v. Grecco, 2022 N.Y. Slip Op. 3912 (N.Y. App. Div. 2022)


In Pezulich v. Grecco, the plaintiff challenged the decision of the Supreme Court, which had favored Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC) by granting summary judgment. The litigation centers around serious allegations of medical oversight following the care of a pregnant woman who tragically developed cervical cancer post-delivery and died.

Background Facts
On January 10, 2015, the decedent delivered her baby at Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC), under the care of her private physician, Dr. Michael A. Grecco. During a prenatal check-up on January 6, 2015, Dr. Grecco observed a cervical myoma measuring four to five centimeters, planning a vaginal delivery with subsequent myoma removal post-delivery. However, the myoma obstructed the baby’s descent during labor, necessitating a cesarean section performed with RUMC residents and an anesthesiologist present. The decedent’s husband noted that Dr. Grecco initially described the myoma as grape-sized, but during delivery, it had grown to the size of a grapefruit.

A cervical myoma, also known as a cervical fibroid, is a type of tumor that forms in the cervix. Myomas, or fibroids, are made up of muscle and fibrous tissue and can vary in size. They are quite common in women of reproductive age. In some cases, their location can affect vaginal delivery, as they might obstruct the birth canal, necessitating a cesarean section.

The decedent and her newborn were discharged from RUMC on January 13. By March 31, Dr. Grecco had ordered further diagnostic tests, including a CT scan and biopsy, and conducted a Pap smear. The biopsy, performed on April 7, approximately 12 weeks postpartum, diagnosed the decedent with cervical cancer. She commenced treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center but succumbed to the disease on December 7, 2015.

The plaintiff, representing the decedent’s estate, filed a lawsuit alleging that RUMC failed in its duty to provide adequate medical care, particularly by not referring the decedent to a gynecologic oncologist in a timely manner. The plaintiff further claimed that the hospital staff overlooked critical symptoms and signs that pointed to a serious underlying condition, which was later diagnosed as cervical cancer. This alleged oversight occurred despite the decedent presenting specific risk factors for cervical cancer that should have prompted immediate and thorough investigation and intervention. Additionally, the plaintiff argued that the hospital’s failure to act promptly and appropriately led directly to the rapid progression of the decedent’s illness, ultimately resulting in her untimely death just months after childbirth. The lawsuit seeks damages for the alleged medical negligence that exacerbated the health crisis leading to the decedent’s death.

Whether RUMC’s actions constituted a deviation from accepted medical practices that could be directly linked to the decedent’s death.

The appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision, denying RUMC’s motion for summary judgment and reinstating the lawsuit. It was determined that there were significant factual disputes that required a trial to resolve.

The appellate court’s rationale was based on the conflicting expert testimonies regarding RUMC’s standard of care. RUMC’s defense presented an expert who testified that the hospital and its staff had acted appropriately and that Dr. Grecco’s orders during the cesarean section were not contraindicated by standard medical practices. Conversely, the plaintiff’s expert criticized the hospital’s follow-up procedures and claimed that the failure to perform a timely and thorough evaluation of the decedent’s medical condition potentially contributed to her death. The appellate court found that these conflicting opinions necessitated a jury trial to determine the credibility of the arguments and the potential negligence of RUMC.

Navigating the complexities of medical malpractice, particularly in cases involving failure to diagnose cancer, demands expertise and committed advocacy. If you or a loved one has suffered due to potential medical negligence, such as a delayed cancer diagnosis following childbirth, it is essential to seek professional legal advice. Contact an experienced New York medical malpractice lawyer who can provide guidance, help you understand your rights, and fight for the justice and compensation you deserve. Prompt legal consultation can significantly influence the outcome of your case, ensuring that all responsible parties are held accountable.

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