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Jury Awards $1.7 Million in Medical Malpractice Trial Win

June 7, 2023
Home Firm News Jury Awards $1.7 Million in Medical Malpractice Trial Win

Weitz & Luxenberg’s legal team achieved a $1.7 million jury trial win on behalf of our clients, Frank Dispensa and his wife, Kathleen. Mr. Dispensa was the victim of medical malpractice. Both he and his wife were awarded compensation — for past and future pain and suffering — due to a doctor’s negligence.

“This was a very rewarding case to work on,” says W&L trial attorney Jared Scotto. “My colleague, Larry Goldhirsch, and I are very proud to have won this case.”

He explains, “This was a tough case, legally and factually. We are thankful the jury reached the right verdict. This was a great win for Frank and Kathy. Their lives were changed forever by a doctor’s negligence. The jury correctly recognized the blame lay squarely on his shoulders.”

Mr. Scotto says, “The defendant, Dr. G., in this case is a diagnostic radiologist. His job is to read and interpret MRIs in order to make a diagnosis.”

Mr. Scotto continues, “There was a tumor on the left optic nerve, and Dr. G. was negligent because he didn’t tell the treating doctors about it. Period. He failed to do his job and the jury was able to easily understand that failure cost Frank his sight.”

Blindness Due to Medical Misdiagnosis

Frank Dispensa is currently 83 years old. He is a retired IBM engineer and professional photographer. He has had issues with the vision in his right eye his entire life. In the spring of 2018, when he began experiencing vision problems in his “good eye”, he immediately sought help from his ophthalmologist. That doctor recognized Mr. Dispensa may have a very serious eye condition. Mr. Dispensa was referred to Dr. G. for an emergency MRI to learn the cause of the vision issues in his left eye.

In an initial reading of an MRI of Mr. Dispensa’s eyes in March of 2018, the radiologist, Dr. G., failed to diagnose a tumor that was growing on his left optic nerve. The tumor was clearly visible on the MRI, but Dr. G. either failed to see the growth, or saw it and chose not to report the tumor to Mr. Dispensa doctors. This failure meant the tumor went undiagnosed and untreated. By the time Mr. Dispensa received proper treatment, he was completely blind in his left eye.

Unfortunately for our client, at the same time Dr. G. failed to properly read the MRI, Mr. Dispensa was diagnosed with a with an autoimmune condition called temporal arteritis. If left untreated, temporal arteritis can lead to blindness.

Mr. Dispensa’s doctors administered proper treatment for his arteritis throughout the spring and summer of 2018. All of his blood tests showed the temporal arteritis was under control. Despite that condition being treated, his vision still deteriorated. Mr. Dispensa’s doctors could not explain why this was happening.

In October 2018, Mr. Dispensa lost sight in his left eye. He had no choice but to seek help from a second diagnostic radiologist at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. This doctor performed another MRI of his eyes and discovered the tumor — known as an optic nerve sheath meningioma. The tumor was determined to be the cause of Mr. Dispensa’s blindness in his left eye.

Doctor’s Negligence Harmed Our Client

In our lawsuit, W&L attorneys stated Dr. G. failed to properly read Mr. Dispensa’s MRI in March of 2018. The radiologist did not inform Mr. Dispensa — or his ophthalmologist — of the tumor.

Optic nerve sheath meningiomas can cause blindness if left untreated. These tumors grow around the optic nerve. As they grow, they press and squeeze the nerve. Over time, pressure on the nerve will cause a loss of function and eventually blindness. According to the lawsuit, had Mr. Dispensa’s optic nerve sheath meningioma been diagnosed in March of 2018, he would have received treatment that could have saved his vision.

The proof of Dr. G.’s negligence was clear. An optic nerve sheath meningioma can only be diagnosed by using an MRI. A comparison of the MRI scans misread by Dr. G. in March 2018, and those taken by a different doctor eight months later, clearly shows the tumor on the left optic nerve was visible when Dr. G. reviewed the March 2018 MRI. Despite this, Dr. G. failed to properly diagnose the tumor, denying Mr. Dispensa the chance to save his vision.

Because of Dr. G.’s negligence, Mr. Dispensa’s optic nerve was continually squeezed by his tumor for more than half a year. During this time, the nerve weakened substantially and, when finally diagnosed, could not be restored. Mr. Scotto said “The optic nerve can withstand the pressure of the compression for only so long. Eventually, Frank’s optic nerve became pale and atrophic. The nerve died. That’s why he went blind.”

Explaining Complex Medical Information Was Critical to Winning

Mr. Scotto continues, “The medical information was very complex and comprehensive. I am pleased we were able to present the evidence in a way the jury could understand. I am also incredibly grateful the members of the jury were patient and attentive in learning the medical evidence in the case.”

At trial, Dr. G. acknowledged, after other doctors diagnosed the tumor, he reviewed the MRI from March 2018 and admitted that the tumor was visible. He further admitted he then went back and changed his records to indicate the tumor was indeed visible when he first read the scans.

Doctor Responsible for Medical Malpractice

Ultimately, W&L attorneys proved to the jury that Dr. G. deviated from the good and accepted practices of a radiologist. Dr. G. was negligent when he failed to include information about the tumor on the MRI he had done on Mr. Dispensa.

W&L attorneys explained to the jury that if Mr. Dispensa had been diagnosed correctly in March 2018 — and received the necessary radiation treatment to shrink the tumor pressing on his optic nerve — he would have had a 70% to 80% chance of having his vision restored. “It was clear that Frank was never given a chance to have the optic nerve sheath meningioma treated in time. Because of Dr. G., he lost a substantial opportunity to save his vision,” says Mr. Scotto.

The case went to trial in Dutchess County, New York.

Client Awarded Money for Pain and Suffering

Mr. Scotto argued to the jury that before losing sight in his left eye, Mr. Dispensa was an independent person. As a professional photographer, he taught photography and judged visual arts competitions. He was able to work on computers — both as a cottage business and as a hobby. Because he had limited vision in his right eye since birth, he relied on his left eye his entire life.

Mr. Dispensa can no longer drive more than a block or two from his home. He cannot take photographs or teach others how to take photographs anymore. Working on computers is now impossible with his extremely limited vision.

Instead, Mr. Dispensa must rely on his wife, Kathleen Dispensa, to drive him 99% of the time, and sometimes read for him. As a result of her husband’s blindness, Ms. Dispensa has lost her independence, as well. Both have suffered tremendously due to Dr. G.’s negligence.

The jury deliberated for less than 90 minutes. In that short time, they worked through the issues in the case, and their verdict was completely in favor of the Mr. and Mrs. Dispensa. “The total award of $1.7 million dollars is entirely appropriate given what our clients have suffered and will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives,” says Mr. Scotto.

W&L Trial Attorneys Win Cases

Mr. Scotto is one of our skilled W&L attorneys. He has a decade of complex litigation and trial experience. He litigates personal injury and medical malpractice cases, and is the supervising attorney of W&L’s New York State Sex Abuse litigation team. His experience is broad-based and his track record for outstanding results has seen his clients recover millions of dollars. Mr. Scotto has been nominated as a Super Lawyers: Rising Star for the past three years, and to the list of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch every year since 2020.

Mr. Goldhirsch has been with the firm since 1994 where he serves as Trial Counsel. He has been listed in Who’s Who in American Law since 1983. In 1988, he won the largest jury verdict in New York state until that time for a single client who sustained an injury — $61 million. The young man had both of his legs severed after falling onto the city’s subway tracks.

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