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Judgment awarded in malpractice case

May 02, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A Franklin County jury this week found a Waynesboro physician guilty of malpractice and awarded the family of a woman whose breast cancer he misdiagnosed $790,000, according to court records.

Neither the defendant in the case, Dr. Stephen Rettig, nor his attorney, Peter Curry of Harrisburg, Pa., could be reached for comment Friday. Attorney Edward Chacker of Philadelphia, the plaintiff's attorney, also could not be reached.

The jury, following an eight-day trial before Franklin County Court Judge Douglas W. Herman, found that Rettig was negligent in his treatment of Debra J. Miller, according to the verdict.

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Miller had a mammogram in Rettig's Family Medical Associates practice in 1990 and the results showed she had a fibro-cystic disease, court records said. She was scheduled for another test in four months, court records said.

At dispute in the case was whether it was the patient's or the physician's responsibility to see that the second mammogram was scheduled and done, court records said.

A year later, Miller was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died in January 1996 at age 41, court records said.

The suit was filed in 1992.

The jury found that Rettig's negligence was a "substantial factor in bringing injury to the plaintiff," according to the verdict form.

The jury awarded Miller's estate $300,000 for wrongful death, $340,000 for pain and suffering and $150,000 to Stephen Miller, Miller's husband, for loss of companionship, according to the verdict.

The jury found no liability against fellow defendants George A. Crawford and Anton Van Duuren, former physicians in Family Medical Associates, according to the verdict.

The original suit also had named as defendants Waynesboro Hospital, Dr. Joseph H. Stewart and Gerald R. Keene, a physician's assistant, but the cases against those three were dropped before the trial, court records said.

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