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$2.7 Million Awarded to Woman Whose Cancer-Free Breast Was Removed

April 20, 1994

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A woman whose left breast was removed after a misdiagnosis of cancer was awarded $2.7 million Tuesday by a jury that ruled all four doctors in the case negligent.

″I’m glad this part of the nightmare is over,″ Elizabeth England said just moments after the jury of four women and two men awarded her $1 million for past injuries and $1.7 million for future damages.

The 41-year-old woman, who has undergone five breast reconstruction operations since the March 1992 mastectomy, still faces more surgery.

Dr. Curtis Phillips, who performed the mastectomy, was found by the jury to be 45 percent responsible.

Dr. J. Robert Benson, Ms. England’s original surgeon, who learned of the cancer misdiagnosis before the mastectomy but did not notify her, was found 25 percent responsible.

Dr. Edward Chopskie, a pathologist who discovered the mistake and notified Benson, was found 20 percent responsible, while Dr. George Katibah, who misread a tissue sample, was found 10 percent to blame.

Ms. England’s breast was removed after a lab incorrectly diagnosed cancer. The error was found two weeks before Ms. England’s mastectomy, but no one notified her or Phillips. The breast was found to be cancer-free after its removal.

″This was a communication meltdown, and the victim was Beth England,″ one of her attorneys, Rodney S. Margol, said in closing arguments Tuesday.

Ms. England’s attorneys, who had sought $5.4 million to $9.3 million, said they were satisfied with the decision. The doctors and their attorneys declined comment.

During the trial, attorneys for the physicians blamed the other doctors.

Richard Collins, who represented Chopskie, argued that his client had found the error and notified Benson.

″He did what the standards of care expected of him in this case,″ Collins said.

Benson’s attorney, Michael Obringer, said his client had planned to do a biopsy after he got the initial test results on Ms. England, but did not know she would go to Phillips before that could be done.

″When Ms. England changed doctors, she got on another ship with another captain,″ he said. ″Fifty to 75 percent of what happened to her belongs to Dr. Phillips.″

Robert Cole, representing Phillips, claimed his client did nothing wrong. He said Chopskie and Benson knew about the misdiagnosis and should bear the blame.

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