Woman says doctors missed her breast cancer

By Kelly Holleran | Jun 23, 2009

BLUEFIELD -- A Northfork woman says doctors at Community Radiology of Virginia failed to diagnose her with breast cancer after an imaging test.

Jacqueline Wallace filed a complaint March 10 in McDowell Circuit Court against Community Radiology, Gary W. Wright, Dr. Stephen Raskin and Dr. Valery P. Sobczynski.

According to a letter Dr. Abbott Huang sent to Wallace's attorneys, Wallace felt a small pea-sized lump in her right breast on Dec. 7, 2006. The following February her husband was concerned the lump was getting larger -– "about the size of the end of a middle finger," the letter says.

In turn, Wallace says she had an imaging test performed at Community Radiology in Bluefield, Va., on March 16, 2007.

On March 20, 2007, Community Radiology issued a report to Wallace, stating that the imaging appeared normal and that there was no evidence of cancer, according to the complaint.

About eight months later, Wallace went for her annual Pap smear test and mentioned the lump in her right breast was growing larger, according to the letter from Huang. Her doctor requested an ultrasound that was performed on Dec. 17, 2007.

A mass was found, and doctors performed a biopsy of the tissue imaged in the March test. In the tissue, doctors found a mass that was indeed cancerous, the complaint says.

Sobczynski was the radiologist responsible for reading the March test and initially determining Wallace was free of cancer, the suit states.

"From a radiologic point of view, the mass seen in the right breast was perceptible on the study of March 16, 2007," Huang's letter says. "Given the history of the mass, an ultrasound should have been performed on the initial study date. This reflects a deviation from the standard of care within a reasonable degree of medical certainty."

Because doctors at Community Radiology failed to find the cancer, Wallace says she has endured emotional pain and suffering, plus physical pain, lost wages, emotional distress, economic loss and permanent disfigurement.

However, Community Radiology contends the complaint against it should be dismissed.

Although it does admit to releasing a report to Wallace saying there was no evidence of cancer, Community Radiology says it included a warning in the report.

"Defendant denies that that is the entirety of the information contained in the report and affirmatively states that the report further states that some patients with breast cancer have normal mammograms, in addition to other information," its answer to Wallace's complaint states.

In addition, Wallace was wrong in naming Raskin as a defendant in the complaint because of his ownership interest in Community Radiology, the center states.

In fact, Raskin, who performed the radiology services at Community Radiology, had no ownership interest in the company. Instead, he had a contract through Community Radiology and was responsible for contracting with other radiologists who may have been needed to fill in for him, it says.

Community Radiology is asking the court to dismiss Wallace's complaint against it with prejudice and to award it attorneys' fees and other relief the court deems just.

In addition to Community Radiology and the two doctors, Wallace names Wright as a defendant in the complaint, saying he is the president and chairman of Community Radiology. But Wright contends he, also, should be dismissed as a defendant in the case because he does not own Community Radiology.

"Rather, Community Radiology of Virginia is owned by CROV Holding, a Virginia company," the suit states. "In turn, CROV Holding is owned by PG Diagnostic Acquisitions, Inc. Mr. Wright, a Florida resident, owns PG Diagnostic Acquisitions, Inc."

In addition, Wright argues has no contacts with West Virginia and so the state's long-arm statute does not apply to him.

"Mr. Wright, a Florida businessman connected to the Virginia parent company of Virginia company Community Radiology does not solicit any business whatsoever from West Virginia patients," his response to the complaint says. "He has no contact whatsoever with the State of West Virginia."

In her complaint, Wallace is seeking unspecified damages, plus other relief the court deems just.

Wright and Community Radiology have removed the case to federal court because of complete diversity of citizenship between them and Wallace and because Wallace is seeking more than $75,000.

They say Raskin's and Sobczynski's citizenships do not matter because the two doctors have not been served.

Eric M. Franci and Steven Mancini of Lewisburg will be representing Wallace.

Elizabeth S. Lawton and Jason Wandling of Shuman, McCuskey and Slicer in Charleston will be representing Wright and Community Radiology.

U.S. District Court case number: 1:09-0511

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