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$2.8 Million Award by Jury for Misdiagnosis


Verdicts, Settlements and Tactics

On September 11, 1993, 56-year-old Daniel Torretta, an optometrist of nearly thirty years, was involved in an automobile accident. Subsequently, Dr. Torretta had difficulty ambulating and saw his family physician. His family physician referred Dr. Torretta to Highland Diagnostic, Inc., so that x-rays of his hip could be taken to determine whether there was a fracture present. The x-rays were taken by Highland Diagnostic, Inc., and read by Joseph Witck, M.D., who observed no abnormalities.

Having ruled out any fracture to the hip, Dr. Torretta began a course of treatment with several chiropractic physicians. Subsequently, the pain increased, and his condition deteriorated, and he was seen by physicians at the Florida Orthopedic Institute. It was immediately determined that he did not have a back problem, but instead had a fracture of the left hip. By the time this fracture was properly diagnosed, avascular necrosis had begun, and the left hip of Dr. Torretta eventually had to be replaced. During the time, Dr. Torretta’s Buena Vista optometry practice went out of business, and he was found to be unable to continue in the practice of optometry.

It was alleged that had the fracture been properly diagnosed and immediate treatment afforded, in all likelihood, Dr. Torretta would have not suffered and ill health effects, and would have been able to continue with his Buena Vista practice, as well as his other business opportunities.

Injury: Claimed injured included avascular necrosis of the left femoral hip necessitating a total hip replacement.

The jury found Dr. Witek and Highland Diagnostics 100% at fault. The award consisted of $213,000 past lost earnings; $51,212 past medical expenses; $596,000 future lost earnings and lost earnings ability (present value of $576,000); $62,100 future medical expenses (present value of $60,000); $300,000 past pain and suffering; $1.7 million future pain and suffering.

Settlement Negotiations: Demand: $300,000.00. Offer: $200,000.00.

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: C. Steven Yerrid and Ralph L. Gonzalez of Yerrid, Knopik & Mudano, P.A., Tampa, Fla.

Defendant’s Attorney: James B. Thompson, St. Petersburg, Florida.

Torretta v. Witek, 95-4522CI-20 (Clearwater, Florida April 21, 1997)

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