Missed Testicular Torsion Diagnosis Leads to $8.5 Million Award

A 27 year-old law student who suffered from a condition that resulted in a deformed testicle and decreased sperm count has been awarded $8.5 million by a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas jury.

The jury in Campbell v. Allegheny University Hospital-Hahnemann Division arrived at its 11-1 decision last week after deliberating for 2 1/2 hours.  Plaintiff’s attorney Slade H. McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Lauricella said he expected delay damages to reach $700,000 to $800,000.

According to court documents, the hospital and defendant physician, Dr. Glenn C. Freas, were insured through the Pennsylvania Insurance Guaranty Association (PIGA).  McLaughlin said PIGA was unreasonable in its settlement offers, which came in at $50,000 before trial and $100,000 during trial.

“They were never in the ballpark,” he said.

The only testimony put on at the trial, before Judge Alfred J. DiBona Jr., was against Freas.  The hospital was brought in on vicarious liability, with both parties being 100 percent responsible, McLaughlin said.

According to McLaughlin, it was his client’s testimony that swayed the jury.  In particular, he said, Campbell talked about his embarrassment in dating situations and his decreased fertility, as well as his fear that infertility would diminish his chances of marrying.

“[Campbell] was somewhat shy to start with,” McLaughlin said, “and this made it more difficult for him to get involved with women.”

“The argument that I made to the jury… [was that] no matter what he does, he is going to run into problems later in life getting married and trying to have children.  I think the jury was very receptive to that argument.”

The events leading up to the suit began on Dec. 11, 1997, when the plaintiff arrived at Allegheny University Hospital’s emergency room, complaining of pain in his groin and lower abdomen, court documents state.  After examining the plaintiff, Freas diagnosed epididymitis, an infection, and prescribed antibiotics.

According to McLaughlin, the doctor did not order a testicular ultrasound to evaluate blood flow into the testicles.  Campbell suffered from testicular torsion, a twisting of the spermatic cord that lessens or eliminates blood flow to a testicle.

Pursuant to discharge instructions, Campbell followed up with the urology department at Hahnemann on Dec. 14, 1997, in a phone call, court documents state.  The plaintiff was informed that he was suffering from testicular torsion and would require emergency surgery.  He went to the hospital the next day.

“As a result of the failure to diagnose the testicular torsion when he first came to the hospital on Dec. 11, 1997, Mr. Campbell suffers from infertility and is deformed as a result of the damage to his testicle,” the plaintiff asserted in his pretrial memo.

The defense, in contrast, contended in court documents that Hahnemann and Freas acted within the standard of care for emergency medicine. “Plaintiff did not have a fever, the symptoms were consistent with epididymitis, and Cipro was prescribed,” the defendants’ pretrial memo states.  “No evidence of testicular torsion was noted… Defendants deny all liability.”

McLaughlin said that when Campbell went to Hahnemann on Dec. 15, 1997, his left testicle was the size of an orange.  Initially the testicle was to be removed, but after blood flow was restored and its color returned, Dr. Khanna decided to leave it in place.

In their pretrial memo, the defendants contended that Campbell first noticed the testicular and abdominal pain early in the day but waited until evening to go to the hospital.

According to McLaughlin, in cases of a total lack of blood flow to the testicles, the condition must be corrected within eight to 12 hours.  In Campbell’s case, nine hours had elapsed between the onset of pain and his emergency room visit.  Accordingly, the defense argued that a Dec. 11 testicular torsion diagnosis would have come too late to save the testicle, McLaughlin said.

“In our case, I was able to argue that he had longer because three days later, at the time of surgery, the testicle was still viable,” McLaughlin said. John A. Filoreto of McKissock & Hoffman represented the defendants.  Fioreto could not be reached for comment.

The Legal Intelligencer
September 3rd, 2002

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