Senior Trial Partner, Michael Sonkin, obtained a defense verdict in Kings County with the assistance of partner Kate Baxter, associate Ali Claus, and paralegal Jane Chan in a case involving allegations of a failure to timely diagnose ulcerative colitis with resulting sub-total colectomy and permanent ileostomy.
The plaintiff presented to the defendant gastroenterologist with a two week history of diarrhea but denied blood, pain, or fever. The patient was managed initially with an antibiotic and probiotic, but when the diarrhea continued he was ordered to submit a stool sample for testing. Although there were subsequent contacts between the physician and the patient regarding the on-going diarrhea while that testing was pending, there were no new complaints and there were persistent denials of blood. In the course of this treatment, the patient failed to report to the doctor that he was colorblind, which would have altered the management to assess for bleeding. When the patient later reported symptoms of weakness and fatigue for the first time, a CBC was ordered by the patient’s primary care physician that showed severe anemia, which led to the performance of a sigmoidoscopy by the defendant and the diagnosis of the severe ulcerative colitis. Despite aggressive medical therapy, the patient progressed to fulminant ulcerative colitis and required a sub-total colectomy with ileostomy that has become permanent. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant departed by not ordering blood testing in the course of the treatment. The jury agreed with the defense, however, which maintained that such testing was not indicated for diarrhea in the absence of any other complaints or symptoms and given the repeated denials of blood in the stool, and which argued that the plaintiff’s failure to report that he was colorblind was the primary cause for any claimed delay in the diagnosis of the ulcerative colitis.