Reading Hospital Clock Tower
A Berks County jury agreed Reading Hospital failed to properly diagnose a young girl’s cancer and awarded her $9.6 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The 15-year-old girl, only identified as L.M. in the lawsuit, won her case Thursday.

The girl’s attorney, Joshua Van Naarden of Ross Feller Casey in Philadelphia, said the amount might be among the highest malpractice awards in Berks County history.

“Had it been diagnosed earlier she would have had a significant chance of surviving. Now she’s going to die. She has terminal cancer.” – Joshua Van Naarden, attorney

Berks County Prothonotary Johnathan K. Del Collo said there was no way to tell if this was the largest award in the county’s history.

“The family was happy that the jury saw through the defendants’ attempts to blame others and to blame the family for delay in diagnosis of this cancer,” Van Naarden said.

The Reading teen’s attorney successfully argued she is on her deathbed because her doctors did not properly diagnose her cancer.

“Had it been diagnosed earlier she would have had a significant chance of surviving,” Van Naarden said. “Now she’s going to die. She has terminal cancer.”

Tower Health spokeswoman Jessica Bezler said the hospital cannot comment on litigation.

Van Naarden said the jury properly attributed fault to L.M.’s health care providers.

Judge Madelyn S. Fudeman presided over the trial.

Other defendants were listed in the original lawsuit filed on Jan. 3, 2018, but the jury found only Dr. Emmanuella Cherisme-Theophile, Reading Hospital and Farias Medical Clinic causally negligent.

The jury found Cherisme-Theophile was 50% causally negligent and Farias Medical Clinic was 10% causally negligent.

L.M. settled with Cherisme-Theophile and Farias Medical Clinic, according to court officials. Details of the settlement were not available and the law firm would not comment.

Reading Hospital was found 40% negligent and will have to pay $3.8 million.

The missed diagnosis

Despite the young girl going to various medical providers, most importantly Reading Hospital, her problems were largely ignored, Van Naarden said.

“They basically said this is menstrual bleeding … at an early age and don’t worry about it,” Van Naarden said. “And as a result of their failure to work her up (test) for that bleeding, her cancer went undiagnosed and progressed to a very advanced stage.”

Van Naarden said it was disturbing that medical professionals dismissed the girl’s medical problems.

“This was an individual who had just turned 11 years old who has persistent bleeding,” Van Naarden said. “That is a red flag and needs to be worked up to determine the cause. Instead of doing an ultrasound that would have definitely identified a mass on her cervix, they sent her home.”

As a result of the late diagnosis of cervical cancer, L.M. had to undergo multiple surgeries and extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Van Naarden said.

He submitted the girl’s medical bills as part of their case and they add up to over a million dollars, he said.

Van Naarden said that $4.5 million of the jury’s $9.6 million award is associated with future medical bills.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “her cancer is now terminal.”