On August 24, 2018, in Volusia County, Florida, the husband of a woman who died from breast cancer on December 7, 2016 sued Memorial Hospital Systems, Inc. (d/b/a Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center); radiologist James M. Welden, III, M.D.; Florida Hospital Healthcare Partners, Inc. (d/b/a Florida Hospital Healthcare Partners); and Adventist Health System/Sunbelt, Inc. The lawsuit alleges the defendants were directly or vicariously responsible for the wrongful death of the plaintiff’s wife, Brankica Vrabec Dungan.
The decedent’s husband, Christopher Jon Dungan—who has been appointed by the court as the personal representative of Brankica Dungan’s estate—has brought numerous legal claims for himself and his young children to recover damages for the untimely passing of his wife and the children’s mother. The lawsuit filed in Volusia County circuit court alleges that radiologist James M. Welden failed to diagnose the deceased’s breast cancer, despite having clear evidence, in the form of mammograms taken in 2012, 2014, and 2015, that a mass in Brankica’s right breast had significant interval increases in size and density.
The History of the Misdiagnoses
The complaint alleges that in 2015, Welden reported benign findings and proceeded to perform an ultrasound examination of the decedent’s left breast only. Thirteen months later, the decedent was sent back to Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center for a diagnostic mammogram due to right breast pain and an “enlarging” lump. A different radiologist evaluated the new mammogram and recognized the interval increase in density and size of the mass, and subsequently proceeded with additional testing and assessment. The radiologist reported that the additional ultrasound was “highly suggestive of malignancy.”
A subsequent breast biopsy and laboratory testing confirmed right breast cancer. In May 2016, the decedent was referred for cancer treatment at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
The lawsuit alleges that had the defendants identified obvious radiographic indications of malignancy of the decedent’s right breast—and had the defendants vicariously or directly met the standard of care by administering appropriate diagnostic tests—the decedent’s cancer diagnosis would have been made more than a year earlier. This would have come before fatal metastasis, thus providing her with life-saving treatment options such as mastectomy. By the time the decedent was referred to Mayo Clinic, however, the cancer had already metastasized out of her breast, ultimately leading to her premature death in December 2016 at the age of 47.
The complaint does not specify a monetary amount being sought by the plaintiffs other than Mr. Dungan is pursuing an amount for himself and his young children in excess of $15,000 for loss of support and services, lost net accumulations, medical and funeral expenses, and other damages. The medical malpractice attorney bringing the lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Dungan’s estate and Mr. Dungan is Wesley T. Straw of Emerson Straw PL in St. Petersburg, FL.
July 19, 2019
Wesley T. Straw, Esquire