pennyslvania supreme court declines hospitals malpractice appeal

In 2004, Barbara Glasow entered the office of Dr. Joseph M. Skutches complaining of a painful lump in her breast. Though she was initially worried that the lump might be cancerous, Dr. Skutches assured Glasow that the mass was only a sebaceous cyst. These cysts can be painful and unsightly, but are far from deadly.

However, by late 2004, the cyst had grown larger and in 2005 it burst. A biopsy performed by another doctor confirmed Glasow’s original fear. The cyst was breast cancer.

In 2006, Glasow filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Skutches and his employer, St. Luke’s Hospital and Health Network. In the suit, she claimed that Dr. Skutches, by failing to diagnose the cyst as cancerous, allowed the disease to spread.

Three years after filing the suit, Glasow passed away.

The hospital countered the charges, pointing out Glasow had failed to schedule mammograms or ultrasounds in the years leading up to her diagnosis. They also claimed that Glasow had failed to schedule a breast ultrasound recommended by Skutches after her first appointment.

Eventually, a jury later found Skutches and St. Luke’s to be partially responsible, awarding Glasow $3.9 million for lost earnings and medical expenses, plus $2 million in non-pecuniary losses. They also found Glasow partially liable for her negligence in scheduling exams and choosing not to pursue traditional treatment following her diagnosis.

The award was decreased to $2.6 million.

St. Luke’s appealed the decision and found success in Lehigh County, where a judge found for the hospital and reversed the decision. Glasow’s representatives then appealed to Pennsylvania’s Superior Court where the lower court’s decision was again reversed, this time in favor of the plaintiff.

St Luke’s hope for a third reversal was thwarted on Monday when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.

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