LOS ANGELES (AP) — A jury awarded $28.2 million to a woman who said treatment delays by Kaiser Permanente doctors forced the amputation of her leg.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury on Wednesday found that Southern California Permanente Medical Group was negligent in its treatment of Anna Rahm.
Rahm, 23, of Chatsworth, was 16 when she began having worsening back pain. Her lawsuit contended that two Kaiser physicians refused to order an MRI requested by her mother, Lynette, for four months. When the test finally was performed in July 2009, it showed that Rahm had an aggressive cancer of the pelvis that had spread to her spine.
A portion of Rahm’s spine, half her pelvis and her right leg were removed.
Kaiser “stubbornly refused” to perform an MRI that would have diagnosed the cancer four months earlier “and would more likely than not salvaged her right leg,” said a statement from Danica Dougherty, one of Rahm’s attorneys.
“While we are extremely grateful for the jury’s verdict, it’s a tragic shame that such a bright and wonderful young woman has had to endure, and will continue to endure for the rest of her life, such a dreadful hardship,” said another attorney, Mike Bidart.
City News Service reported that during the four-week trial, defense attorney N. Denise Taylor said that neither doctor recalled Rahm’s mother requesting MRIs for her daughter. Taylor also argued that the doctors were not at fault and that the cancer already had reached Rahm’s spine when the physicians treated her in March 2009.
“Once her spine is involved, her leg has to come off,” she argued. “It was not anyone at Kaiser’s fault.”
Taylor also said that thanks to the surgery, Rahm is now cancer-free.
The jury awarded Rahm medical expenses and compensation for pain and suffering and loss of future earnings.
“The health and safety of our patients is paramount at all times,” Kaiser Permanente said in a statement on Thursday. “Although we understand the jury’s findings and wish only the best for Ms. Rahm, highly respected medical experts testified that the medical care provided was appropriate. We will be evaluating in the days ahead how best to respond to this verdict.”