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$5.5M Malpractice Award

A jury rules that 2 Island physicians are negligent in treating patient with radition

May 14, 2004 | STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

A Staten Island Supreme Court jury yesterday awarded $5.5 million to a West Brighton man with a debilitating genetic disorder who sued Dr. Gil Lederman, the former head of Staten Island University Hospital's radiation oncology unit. The jury found that the radiation treatment shouldn't have been performed to treat the patient's disease.


Dr. Grossman was held responsible for 65 percent of the damages and Dr. Lederman, her supervisor at the time, was liable for the rest. The jury assigned no liability to University Hospital.

Robert Loprimo, 44, of West Brighton, was diagnosed at 18 with neurofibromatosis, a rare disease that causes tumors to grow all over the body. Loprimo has had more than 20 surgeries to remove the tumors, but they always grow back, causing symptoms ranging from severe pain to sleep apnea to disfigurement.

Desperate to find a treatment that worked, Loprimo visited University Hospital in 1998, where Dr. Lederman was piloting a cancer treatment called stereotactic radiosurgery that uses high doses of radiation targeted to very specific areas.

After consulting with Dr. Grossman, Loprimo agreed to undergo the treatment.

What Dr. Grossman didn't tell him, Loprimo and his attorney successfully argued, was that this treatment had never before been used to treat neurofibromatosis.

"They shouldn't have done the treatment and they should have given him appropriate information so he could make his own decision," Loprimo's lawyer, Steven Samuel, said last night. "There's no data, no experience, no basis for using radiosurgery to treat this disease."

After the treatment, Loprimo developed severe swelling in his airway and had to undergo an emergency tracheotomy so he could breathe. He could no longer speak normally and after developing severe scarring, was unable to freely move his neck and right arm, Samuel said.

The jury awarded Loprimo $1.5 million for past pain and suffering and $4 million for the future.

Loprimo, who is unable to work because of his medical condition, appreciated the verdict, but said the money didn't ease the pain.

"I wouldn't call it a victory because of what happened to me," he said last night. "I just hope they don't do this to someone else."

His mother, Lydia, with whom he lives, said she hopes the money "would make Robert's life a little more comfortable."

Justice Joseph J. Maltese called for a hearing next month to decide whether the verdict is appropriate.

"This is not the end of the process," vowed the attorney representing both doctors, Andrew S. Garson, of Garson Gerspach DeCorato & Cohen.

Garson maintains that Loprimo opted to undergo the treatment after speaking extensively with Dr. Grossman, who told Loprimo that the radiation had successfully treated other patients' benign tumors in the past.

Gary Laermer, vice president of development at University Hospital, said it was too early to say whether the verdict would affect Dr. Grossman's standing at the hospital.

Recently, Dr. Lederman left University Hospital, although he can still see patients there and admit them to the hospital. He has become director of radiation oncology at Cabrini Medical Center, Manhattan.


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