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A Spotsylvania jury has awarded $7.5 million in a medical malpractice case
BY JIM HALL
A Spotsylvania County jury has awarded $7.5 million to the family of a woman who died after a delayed diagnosis of breast cancer.
The jurors ruled against Dr. Donna Gamache, a Fredericksburg family practitioner, in the wrongful-death action. The five-day trial ended April 3, before Circuit Judge David H. Beck.
The award is believed to be one of the largest malpractice recoveries in Virginia history and is the second major malpractice award against Gamache.
In 2005, a Fredericksburg jury awarded $1.8 million to a Spotsylvania man who claimed that Gamache failed to diagnose and treat a severe spinal condition.
Last week's decision will be reduced to the state-mandated malpractice cap at the time of the negligence: $1.65 million.
Gamache yesterday declined to comment about the jury's verdict. Jill Jacobson, her Richmond attorney, said no decision has been made on an appeal.
"We're looking at all of our options right now," Jacobson said.
The jury's decision ended a case that began six years ago when Eleanor Browder, the plaintiff, found a lump, about 1 inch by 2 inches, in her right breast.
Browder died of cancer last April before her complaint ever reached trial. Paul Browder, her husband, and her two adult children continued the case after her death.
Eleanor Browder was a registered nurse who had worked at Culpeper Regional Hospital. Paul Browder was a longtime mail carrier in Spotsylvania.
In recent years, the family had moved to New Jersey, where Browder worked as a school nurse until her death.
In March 2003, Browder, then 53, visited Gamache's office at Lee's Hill Medical Associates. Mary Nichols, a nurse practitioner there, ordered a mammogram of the right breast. The test was negative.
Both Gamache and Nichols were employees of the practice. Gamache has since opened Lee's Hill Family Physicians.
Nichols was originally named as a defendant but settled the case early and was not a part of the trial, according to court records.
William Artz, Browder's Arlington attorney, argued that the mammogram results were delivered to Gamache's mailbox at Mary Washington Hospital. Gamache examined them and wrote at the top, "Need chart."
"That's where the ball got dropped," Artz said yesterday in a phone interview. "She never got the chart. Nobody did anything more."