Heather Hansen and paralegal Beth Carson recently obtained a defense verdict on behalf of a podiatrist in a case involving allegations of failure to timely diagnose melanoma.  The plaintiff brought suit against two podiatrists, his primary care physician, and a vascular surgeon/wound care physician.  The case proceeded to trial against the two podiatrists and the primary care physician, only.

The plaintiff initially presented to his primary care physician with complaints of a pigmented lesion on his right great toe.  He was referred to podiatrist A for further evaluation. Podiatrist A diagnosed a pinched callus which he debrided.  At a follow-up visit, Podiatrist A told the patient that he had a bone spur (seen on x-ray) that was likely contributing to the callus formation.  The patient never returned to Podiatrist A.  For about seven months, plaintiff performed self-care to his wound and kept it covered with a band aid.  He then returned to his PCP because his toe was not healing.  A wound culture was performed and plaintiff was prescribed oral and topical antibiotics.  He was also referred to podiatrist B. 

When plaintiff presented to podiatrist B, he advised that his toe had not healed since being debrided by Podiatrist A and that he had increased pain with elevation.  Podiatrist B examined the toe and described a non-pigmented ulceration.  A MRI was ordered to rule out a possible bone infection and returned negative.  Based on the complaint of pain on elevation, Podiatrist B referred plaintiff to a vascular surgeon to rule out other potential causes of poor wound healing.  Plaintiff never returned to podiatrist B.  Several months later, plaintiff was diagnosed with amelanotic melanoma.

At trial, plaintiff presented expert testimony from specialists in podiatry, family medicine, and oncology.  He argued that each defendant was negligent in failing to perform a biopsy to rule out malignancy or ensure that a biopsy was performed. 

Following a seven-day trial, and over 15 hours of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict finding Podiatrist A 25% negligent, the PCP 25% negligent, and Podiatrist B not negligent.  The jury assessed 50% comparative negligence against plaintiff.