Woman awarded $15 million for misdiagnosed lesion

A Michigan jury awarded a 61-year-old woman $15 million after her oral surgeon failed to diagnose an oral lesion that eventually progressed into stage IV cancer, according to a story in the Detroit News.

Because of a state law capping malpractice awards, however, the woman will receive only about $600,000, the story noted.

Herta Hopton first complained of pain in her lower right jaw in 2005. Her dentist, R. Peter Maly, D.D.S., referred her to a periodontist, John Sivertson, D.D.S., who detected a white lesion in the bottom of her mouth but diagnosed it as "aspirin burn." She was referred to Warren Vallerand, D.D.S., an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, in May 2006 and saw him four times about the lesion, but he never called for a biopsy.

Hopton was finally diagnosed with stage IV skin cancer in November 2006. She has since had more than 20 surgeries to remove part of her jaw and reconstruct it with other bone tissue, according to the Detroit News.

Hopton sued all three doctors and the case went to trial, but ended with a hung jury. She settled out of court with Dr. Maly for an undisclosed amount. In a second trial, Dr. Sivertson was exonerated, while the jury found against Dr. Vallerand.

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