Court rules woman can sue health department after cancer diagnosis


A local woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 can move forward with a lawsuit claiming malpractice against the Ingham County Health Department.

This goes back to 2013 when she went to a nurse practitioner at the health department, complaining about a pea-shaped knot in one of her breasts. 

A mammogram was performed in September that year and  the woman was told the lump was benign, but the spot continued to grow.

The woman says she did self-examinations every day because she was concerned, according to the State of Michigan Court of Appeals. She admitted that doctors tracked the growth of the spot during her visits in 2013 and 2014. When she moved to Arkansas the next year and saw a new doctor, things changed almost immediately. 

The physician ordered more photos and referred her to a radiologist, who told her she would need a biopsy. When the results came back on June 9th, 2015, doctors told the woman she had breast cancer.

By that point the lump was 10 centimeters wide–about the size of a bagel.

Doctors said she would need radiation and chemotherapy in addition to removing one of her breasts. She had a double mastectomy to reduce her risk.

That’s when she sued the Ingham County Health Department as well as the doctor and nurse practitioner who treated her. The woman’s case was thrown out in 2018 after the court ruled she needed to file lawsuit sooner. 

Under Michigan law patients have to file a claim within six months of any alleged malpractice. The Ingham County Circuit Court denied her claim because she filed four days too late.

But the Michigan Court of Appeals sided with the woman and found that the six month period started the day she got her diagnosis, not eight days earlier when she was told she might have cancer without a diagnosis.
The Ingham County Health Department declined to comment on the pending case.

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