Three years ago, a La Salle County jury found neuropathologist Dr. Meean Gujrati and Central Illinois Pathology guilty of misdiagnosing Daniel Gapinski’s brain cancer at a point in time in which it could have potentially been treatable, and a three-judge Third District panel recently upheld the jury’s medical malpractice verdict. Rebecca Gapinski, the widow of Daniel Gapinski, was pleased with the court’s belief that the doctor and center had indeed failed to detect the fact that her husband’s kidney cancer had spread to his brain. Instead, they had negligently concluded the brain tumor was merely a benign lesion called meningioma, and for their oversight, Rebecca will receive $1.7 million. The appeals court found no reversible error in the medical malpractice verdict.
Gapinski died at the age of 49, months before the original medical malpractice verdict was issued, and the funds were paid out to his family. With interest applied, the judgment will now exceed $12 million. The defendants, however, could turn to petitioning the Illinois Supreme Court to appeal the issue once again. Gujrati’s appellate lawyer, Bob Larson, was disappointed with the judgment, saying the doctor had received insufficient counsel. The appellate court noted that when Gujrati asked to substitute counsel, the case had been pending for three years, and said the judges could have issued a denial of the doctor’s request to change counsel. He was lucky the court agreed to hear his position at all.
“We find Gujrati and CIP were not denied a fair trial by the court’s evidentiary rulings regarding expert witness testimony,” the panel consisting of Justices Mary K. O’Brien, Tom M. Lytton and Robert L. Carter, wrote in a statement. “The experts established their qualifications and testified based on their knowledge and understanding of cancer and its treatment. They explained they worked in multidisciplinary teams with other tumor or cancer specialists and were familiar with the procedures and treatments.” In other words, regardless of what the doctor may claim, he still needs to be held accountable for not further investigating the man’s well-being. He had every opportunity to detect the cancerous cells, but decided not to do his due diligence.
“I think the decisions both by trial court and the appellate court represent a denial of a fundamental right to our client: the right to be represented by counsel of our choosing,” Larsen said. “The court basically said two parties who were separate and distinct could not have their own attorney represent them through the entirety of the trial” He added, “At this point where we’re weighing our options as to what we’re going to do.”
The family’s attorney, Anthony C. Raccuglia, is only cautiously pleased with appeal court’s verdict, realizing it may not be the end to their battle, but he states he believes petitioning the high court has little potential for success. “”The biggest hurdle to overcome after convincing the jury at the trial level was the Appellate Court,” said Raccuglia. “That being accomplished, I am confident that a petition for rehearing will be denied and the Supreme Court will deny a request to hear the case.”