Collinsville doc on trial for misdiagnosing mole

Steve Gonzalez Jan. 18, 2007, 12:42pm

Rex Carr

Dr. Kelly McMasters

A medical malpractice trial involving a wife and mother who died of malignant melanoma is under way in Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder's court.

Patrick Zimmermann, M.D. of Family Medicine Associates in Collinsville in accused of failing to diagnose Maria Storm's cancer which began as a mole on her back.

The first of its kind in Madison County in 2007, the trial is expected to last two weeks.

According to Douglas Storm, Maria's husband, Zimmermann began treating his wife on Aug. 19, 1999.

He claims Zimmermann negligently and carelessly failed to properly evaluate Maria's recurrent skin lesion, failed to perform a biopsy, failed to refer her for an appropriate consultation for evaluation and failed to diagnose a malignant melanoma.

Storm claims his wife's melanoma, which was diagnosed in early 2003, went undiagnosed and untreated and subsequently metastasized causing his wife to lose her chance of survival and recovery.

He also claims she was subjected to an increased risk of harm and the effectiveness of treatment was lessened and she suffered permanent pain, mental anguish, disability and disfigurement.

Maria Storm died on Dec. 14, 2005, leaving behind her husband and two sons who claims they have suffered a pecuniary loss, including the loss of love, support, companionship, affection and society.

Represented by Rex Carr and Troy Walton of East St. Louis, Storm is seeking a judgment in excess of $200,000.

A second defendant, James Dalla-Riva, M.D., was voluntarily dismissed by Carr on Nov. 30.

Dalla-Riva was accused of failing to properly evaluate Maria's complaints.

According to court documents, Douglas Storm accused Dalla-Riva of negligently diagnosing his wife's condition as a left axilla folliculitis and failed to refer her to a specialist for treatment.

Ted Dennis of Belleville represents Zimmermann.

He is expected to call Louis Dehner, M.D., a pathologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

Dennis says he expects Dehner to testify that the mole removed by Anthony Malench, M.D. of Maryville, and later by Zimmermann was not the primary spot of the melanoma. Or, the melanoma was completely excised by either Zimmermann or Malench and had metastasized prior to its excision.

Dennis is also expected to call expert witnesses, Eric Whitman, M.D. from Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, N.J. and Clay Anderson, M.D. of Columbia, Mo.

The defense is expected to provide general medical information on the care for people seeking excision of a mole, including Maria Storm.

He will also testify as to the standard of care for performance of a mole excision and is expected to say that nothing he did in his treatment of Maria violated a reasonable standard of care for a family practitioner practicing in Madison County.

Zimmermann is expected to testify that the standard of care for a family practitioner does not require that every mole or nevus removed from an individual be submitted to pathology to determine whether it is malignant.

Zimmermann is planning to say it is his opinion that the mole he removed from Maria Storm in 1999 was indeed a mole, and had it been suspicious, he would have submitted it for pathology studies.

Dennis will then call Jerry Kruse, M.D. of Quincy who will testify that the standard of care for family practitioners removing moles does not require that all moles be sent for a pathology report, but rather the requirement is that moles are submitted based upon an index of suspicion for the family practitioner.

Kruse will also testify that Maria Storm's records do not indicate Zimmermann was required to submit the mole for pathology.

Dennis also will call Kelly McMasters, M.D. from the University of Louisville.

McMasters works in the division of surgical oncology and is expected to discuss his involvement with melanoma.

He will testify that it is unlikely that the mole shaved off by Zimmermann was the primary melanoma in Maria Storm's case.

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