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Berger & Lagnese Wins in Excess of $1 Million Verdict in Medical Malpractice Trial - Failure to Diagnose and Trest Cancer

Posted on Jan 25, 2013

In another victory on behalf of our clients, Berger & Lagnese represented the estate of a woman, Carolyn Champlin, in a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit based on Erie physicians' failure to properly diagnose and treat her cancer. The jury found the two physicians negligent -- her longtime primary-care doctor, Renato Ocampo, M.D., formerly of Kane and now retired; and Alfredo Tan, M.D., of Erie, a thoracic surgeon to whom Ocampo referred Champlin. Tan settled with Champlin's estate before the verdict, but he was still named as a defendant on the verdict slip.  The jury attributed 60 percent of the negligence to Ocampo and 40 percent of the negligence to Tan, according to the slip.  The jury attributed no negligence to Kane Community Hospital, which was the only other defendant when testimony in the trial ended on Tuesday in the courtroom of Judge John Garhart.  The verdict, however, only affects Ocampo in terms of the jury's monetary award because Tan settled during deliberations for an undisclosed sum, as did Kane Memorial Hospital.  Because of the settlement with Tan, the jury award of $1,821,529 will be reduced by 40 percent, or the amount of negligence the jury attributed to Tan. The reduction of 40 percent drops the award to $1,092,917.40. Tan is responsible only for the amount for which he settled.  The estate also reached settlements of undisclosed amounts with two other defendants, Hamot Medical Center, now known as UPMC Hamot, and Warren General Hospital. The estate settled with the hospitals after jury selection but before trial, according to the verdict slip.

Champlin had chest X-rays at Hamot and the hospitals in Warren and Kane between 1998 and 2003, according to court records.  The defendants in the Champlin case said they did nothing wrong in treating Champlin, a smoker and a widowed mother of eight children, six of whom survive. A daughter, Patricia Wees, of the Warren area, administered her mother's estate and filed suit in 2005.  Attorney Paul of Berger & Lagnese said after the verdict that the evidence showed Champlin had cancer in 2000, but was not properly diagnosed for three years. During that time, Paul said, the lung cancer "went from operable and curable to inoperable and incurable."

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