Court: Lansing woman can sue over failed cancer diagnosis

Posted at 4:08 PM, May 16, 2019

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that a Lansing woman can sue the county health department that she says failed to diagnose her breast cancer.

Zanetta Hutchinson filed a lawsuit against the Ingham County Health Department, a doctor and a nurse practitioner after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. Hutchinson says the department allowed a malignant tumor to grow unchecked for years, the Lansing State Journal reported.

The appeals court ruled last week that Hutchinson is allowed to sue and sent the case back to Ingham County Circuit Court, which previously sided with the health department’s claim that Hutchinson’s lawsuit was invalid because she filed too late.

Michigan medical malpractice claims must be filed within six months of the discovery of an alleged instance of malpractice, according to state law.

The department’s spokeswoman Amanda Darche declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Hutchinson visited the department’s Women’s Health Center in 2013 with concerns about a lump in her left breast, according to court records.

Nurse practitioner Carol Salisbury ordered Hutchinson to undergo a mammogram and told her that she had benign calcifications in both breasts. Salisbury assured Hutchinson that “no significant masses, calcifications or other finding are seen in either breast,” according to the appeals court’s opinion.

Hutchinson said the lump grew larger and she continued to express her concerns to Salisbury, according to court records. Dr. Peter Gulick, who’s also named in the lawsuit, was Salisbury’s supervisor.

“They never did nothing else,” Hutchinson said. “I’m not a doctor. I had to take her word for it.”

Hutchinson eventually moved to Arkansas and sought treatment at the University of Arkansas for Medical Services, where doctors diagnosed her with invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer. The cancer had spread to Hutchinson’s blood vessels and lymph channels, which increases her risk of the cancer traveling outside the breast or returning in the future.

Hutchinson underwent a double mastectomy, according to court records.