Iowa man was given prostate surgery when incorrect lab results showed he had cancer. Jury to decide award for negligence.
Jurors are being asked to decide how much an Iowa man should receive after a clinic gave him debilitating prostate cancer surgery. The patient, Rickie Huitt of Panora, sued the Iowa Clinic in 2017, after learning his surgery was unnecessary. Huitt never had cancer.
Iowa Clinic officials told Huitt their pathologist, Joy Trueblood, had mixed up a microscope slide containing Huitt’s prostate tissue with a slide containing tissue from a patient who had cancer. Unfortunately, by the time Huitt discovered this, it was too late. Another physician had examined the lab report and determined he needed to have his prostate removed. The surgery damaged Huitt’s nerves, leaving him incontinent and impotent.
“It’s embarrassing. I don’t feel like a man anymore,” Huitt, 67, said. He admitted on the witness stand that he regularly has to wear a pad due to incontinence. Huiit testified he has been depressed and angry and his impotence once led him to tell his wife of 45 years, Judy, to find another man.
Nick Rowley, one of Huitt’s attorneys told jurors they should award the couple a minimum of $15 million. “What it all boils down to is damage in two human lives that was negligently inflicted,” he explained. The lawsuit names the Clinic and Trueblood as defendants.
Another one of Huitt’s lawyers, Randy Shanks, added, “It’s mind-boggling. It’s a terrible, sad thing.”
Court records show Trueblood admitted under oath to making the error after a barcode scanner she used to match test slides with patient records read the code from the wrong patient’s form. The Iowa Clinic has not commented on what happened to the patient who actually had cancer.
In deposition, Trueblood said the scanner glitch had happened a few times before during the thousands of cases she’d handled over about ten years, but she had caught the errors.
“Why didn’t you catch it this time?” Shanks asked.
“I don’t have any idea,” the pathologist replied.
Trueblood was then asked, “Would you agree with me that your handling of (this) case, it was careless? Would you agree with that?”
“Yes,” she replied.
As the trial began, Judge Joseph Seidlin, appointed by Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, told jurors the facts of the case are not in dispute and said the Iowa Clinic was found to be negligent. Stacie Codr, an attorney representing the Iowa Clinic, added they would not be asked to decide whether her clients are at fault.
“The defendants have acknowledged their liability in this matter…We’re not here to dispute that,” she said. Instead, she said, they “will be asked to decide, ‘What is reasonable compensation?’” In doing so, Codr said jurors should “consider the effects of Huitt’s other health conditions, including a history of high blood pressure, kidney stones and a condition that could lead to blood cancer.”
The Iowa Clinic is central Iowa’s largest independent group of medical specialists. Its chief executive officer, Ed Brown, told the Register in December 2018 he “hoped to settle Huitt’s lawsuit through mediation.” But that proved to be impossible and the case ulitimatley went to trial.