Hardi v. Mezzanotte
District of Columbia Court of Appeals
818 A.2d 974 (2003)
Mezzanotte (plaintiff) was seen by Dr. Hardi (defendant), a gastroenterologist, because she believed she had a recurring bout of diverticulitis, an infectious condition affecting the colon. Hardi took a medical history, had Mezzanotte’s prior x-ray of her abdomen, and noted in her chart that a previous physician had treated the diverticulitis condition with antibiotics. During a physical examination, Hardi felt a mass he believed could either be related to the diverticulitis or be a cancerous tumor. Hardi did not proceed with commonly-performed testing to determine the presence of diverticulitis and, instead, referred her to a gynecologist, Dr. Match. Match ordered blood tests to determine whether Mezzanotte may have ovarian cancer. The tests, typically 80 percent accurate, were negative. An ultrasound revealed a mass in Mezzanotte’s abdomen, but it was unclear whether it was diverticular or gynecological. Despite the unclear diagnosis, Match ordered a complete hysterectomy that was “cleared” by Hardi. Before the surgery, Match requested that Hardi perform additional gastrological testing to rule out any other possible condition. Hardi unsuccessfully performed a sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy on Mezzanotte. There was an obstruction in her colon caused by the diverticulitis that should have been a red flag to Hardi that something was wrong with her bowel. Hardi also asked a radiologist to perform a barium enema on Mezzanotte which was also unsuccessful due to the obstruction. Mezzanotte’s condition deteriorated rapidly and she had to be admitted to an area hospital. She underwent surgery for a hysterectomy as well as to remove infectious tissue caused by the diverticulitis. At that point, the surgeon informed Mezzanotte’s husband that she had diverticulitis, not cancer. Mezzanotte was required to undergo four additional operations and spent almost three months as an in-patient. Mezzanotte sued Hardi for negligent misdiagnosis. After a jury was unable to reach a verdict, a bench trial found against Hardi and awarded over $900,000 in damages to Mezzanotte. Hardi appealed, arguing that the statute of limitations barred plaintiff’s negligence action.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Wagner, C.J.)
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