Hamidan Mahamad died from ovarian cancer on July 28, 2015. Thereafter, her gynecologist and his practice were sued by her executrix who claimed that the doctor diminished Ms. Mahamad’s chance for a better outcome by failing, following an annual physical and ultrasound in April 2010, to order a certain blood test and refer her to a gynecologic oncologist.
A Queens County jury found for the plaintiff and awarded pre-death pain and suffering damages in the sum of $2,000,000 (four and a half years). Defendants argued that there was no malpractice and, alternatively, that the amount awarded was excessive but in Bacchus-Sirju v. Hollis Women’s Center (2d Dept. 2021), both the liability and pain and suffering damages awards were affirmed.
Here are the injury details:
- severe abdominal pain, dehydration, malnourishment and septicemia
- infection with methicillin-resistant staff aureus (“MRSA”)
- colitis and cell C. difficile; incontinent
- extensive debulking surgery and chemotherapy
- pulmonary edema
- hypoglycemic brain injury and seizures
- extreme weakness and pain leading to inability to walk and need for full-time home health aides before admission to nursing home
- required feeding tube
The jury also awarded $525,000 in pecuniary damages ($500,000 past, $25,000 future – five years) to each of Ms. Mahamad’s two adult children (Natasha, 39 years old and Sheik, 38 years old). Defendants argued that the testimony to support these awards showed only an emotional loss which is not compensable under the law, not a pecuniary loss; however, the decedent’s daughter testified at length about the support and guidance her mother provided to both her and her brother. For example, Ms. Mahamad, with whom Natasha was very close, gave her guidance with regard to raising her children (she had five already and was pregnant when her mother died) and was Natasha’s full-time babysitter The appellate court reduced the pecuniary awards to the children to $275,000 for Natasha and $125,000 for Sheik.
- Ms. Mahamad was born in Guiana, in South America, where she lived until she was 40 years old and left her abusive husband to come to the United States.
- Plaintiff maintained that Ms. Mahamad, who was 69 years old when she died, had an 80% chance of being cured had her cancer diagnosis not been delayed.
- In their summations, the defendants’ attorney steadfastly maintained there was no malpractice and he did not discuss the issue of damages; plaintiff’s attorney asked the jury to award $7,000,000 for pain and suffering including physical pain, emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life. He also asked for pecuniary damages in the sum of $2,500,000 for each of the two children.