Medical error is a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., with diagnostic errors comprising the majority of errors. Delay in diagnosing breast cancer is a unique multidisciplinary phenomenon involving primary care physicians, gynecologists, radiologists, pathologists, and general surgeons. The New York medical malpractice court system remains among the most active court systems in the country. The purpose of this study is to analyze the characteristics of medical malpractice litigation involving breast cancer in New York for the past 10 years. Jury verdicts and settlements from 2007 to 2017 were obtained from a computerized legal database and were analyzed. Data pertaining to defendants, plaintiffs, case outcomes, allegations, and verdicts were collected. The study identified 48 cases of litigation pertaining to breast cancer. Overall, 14 of the verdicts were won by defendants (46.7%). Among the plaintiffs' verdicts and settlements, the median payout was $1.8 million (mean $2.9) overall, $2.6 million (mean $4.3) for verdicts alone, and $1.68 million (mean $1.9) for settlements. The most commonly named specialty among the defendants was radiology (32) and the second was surgery (15). Inappropriate workup of mammography findings was alleged in 18 cases. The average delay to diagnosis was 13.4 months (sd 7.1). Fourteen cases involved diagnosis at stage 4, nine cases at stage 3, and fifteen at stage 2. The average verdict payout was more than two times higher than the average settlement payout. Errors leading to malpractice claims may be attributable in part to lapses in communication among medical providers involved in the workup of suspicious breast lesions.
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