Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Doctor defeats lawsuit by kidney patient

A man who alleged a Cumberland doctor’s negligence cost him one and a half of his kidneys has lost a $1 million medical malpractice lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Bobby L. Willison, through his attorneys, said urologist Prabhakar Pandey violated medical standards of care by removing all of Willison’s right kidney after discovering a small mass on it.

Pandey compounded the error by not excising a similarly cancerous lesion on the left kidney, Willison alleged. After that mass tripled in size over the next 18 months it required the surgical removal of about half the kidney, according to the suit filed by attorneys Paul J. Weber and Mark E. Rosasco.

But the federal court jury deliberated less than 90 minutes last month before rejecting Willison’s negligence claim and finding that neither Pandey nor the Western Maryland Health System, for which he worked, violated acceptable standards of medical care in treating him.

The jury “came back quickly and that’s usually a good sign for the defense,” said Pandey’s attorney, Frederick W. Goundry III, of Varner & Goundry PC in Frederick.

On April 19, 2006, Pandey surgically removed Willison’s right kidney at Cumberland’s Sacred Heart Hospital, part of the Western Maryland Health System. Pandey performed the right radical nephrectomy because diagnostic tests the prior month had revealed a 2.1-centimeter mass near the kidney’s major blood vessels.

No surgery was performed on the left kidney, even though the diagnostic tests also indicated a 1.3-centimeter mass on that kidney, according to the complaint.

By October 2007, that mass had grown to 3.8 centimeters, at which time Willison had half his left kidney removed at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

The weeklong trial in October featured a battle of medical experts. Both Willison and the defendants, Pandey and WMHS, presented testimony from three doctors regarding the appropriate standard of care.

Willison’s attorneys argued that removal of the entire right kidney was unnecessary and deviated from the standard of care. Based on the mass’s size and the presence of a similar threat to the left kidney, medical standards called for removing only part of the right kidney, they argued.

In addition, the subsequent removal of half the left kidney could have been prevented if Pandey had acted when the mass was discovered in March 2006, argued Weber and Rosasco, of Hyatt & Weber PA in Annapolis.

“Now, rather than having two partial kidneys, he is left with ½ of one kidney,” the complaint stated. “Plaintiff’s remaining kidney is gradually failing and he will undoubtedly develop chronic renal insufficiency requiring him to undergo dialysis and/or transplants.”

Neither Weber nor Rosasco returned telephone messages seeking comment on the case.

Pandey’s defense attorneys successfully countered that the doctor’s removal of the right kidney and his “see-and-wait” approach with the left kidney were appropriate.

Using medical testimony, the defense argued the size and location of the tumor on the right kidney necessitated removal. In addition, Pandey actively monitored the mass on the left kidney and properly referred Willison to the Cleveland Clinic, which specializes in cancer treatment, when the lesion’s size and location required surgery, according to the defense.

“The radical nephrectomy was entirely appropriate and there was no delay,” WMHS’ attorney J. Matthew Gilmore said last week.

“There was no deviation in the standard of care,” added Gilmore, of Geppert, McMullen, Paye & Getty PC in Cumberland. “Obviously, the jury agreed.”

The lawsuit, which alleged negligence under Maryland law, was filed in federal court based on the diversity of state residency between Willison, who lives in Pennsylvania, and the Maryland-based defendants.

Because the suit was filed in federal court, the plaintiff was able to include the amount of damages sought. In state court, a complaint for medical malpractice can include only the allegation that damages exceed the jurisdictional amount.

Bobby L. Willison v. Western Maryland Health System et al.

Court:

U.S. District Court, Baltimore

Case No.:

1:09-cv-01687-ELH

Proceeding:

Jury trial

Judge:

Ellen L. Hollander

Outcome:

Defense verdict

Dates:

Event: April 19, 2006

Suit filed: June 26, 2009

Trial: Oct. 17, 2011-Oct. 21, 2011

Jury verdict: Oct. 21, 2011

Plaintiff’s Attorneys:

Paul J. Weber and Mark E. Rosasco of Hyatt & Weber PA in Annapolis.

Defendants’ Attorneys:

J. Matthew Gilmore of Geppert, McMullen, Paye & Getty PC in Cumberland, and Frederick W. Goundry III of Varner & Goundry PC in Frederick.

Count:

Negligence.