WEST CHESTER, PA— A Chester County jury awarded $18 million to a 26-year-old Phoenixville woman in a medical malpractice case against a certified nurse practitioner who treated the woman for a lump on her breast.
Kerri Downes filed a civil lawsuit against Axia Women’s Health on Dec. 26, 2019, accusing the medical provider of improperly treating her for a lump on her breast.
Chester County Court officials confirmed Monday that this was the “largest known” award in a civil case.
There was a larger verdict in the last 10 years, but the case was sealed and the details were unavailable.
The jury verdict determined that Eileen Carpenter, a certified nurse practitioner, was negligent for not ordering a breast imaging test for Downes, delaying the treatment for nine months.
“The nine-month delay in her breast cancer diagnosis has robbed Kerri of what would have been a much better chance for cure, and it also deprived her of a chance to have a lumpectomy instead of a bilateral mastectomy,” her attorney, Matthew A. Casey of Philadelphia, said Monday after the verdict.
As a result, Downes’ life expectancy has been reduced significantly, according to witnesses who testified during the trial.
The jury deliberated an hour and half before rendering a verdict Friday in the two-week trial before Judge Edward Griffith in the Chester County Justice Center.
Casey said Monday the jury made the right decision.
“Its verdict is more than reasonable,” Casey said. “Kerri Downes was let down by her medical provider. At 22 years old, she found her own breast mass, which was the size of a grape, and she was conscientious about it, going twice to her gynecologist’s office and showing it, twice, to a nurse practitioner.”
Casey said the nurse practitioner reassured Downes that it was nothing to worry about, did no ultrasound, and sent her home.
Jacqueline Promislo, a Philadelphia attorney representibg Carpenter and Axia Women’s Health, declined to comment on whether the verdict will be appealed. The first step would be a review by the trial judge.
Downes, now 26, is a registered nurse who works in the Emergency Department at Paoli Hospital. She graduated from Immaculata University with a degree in nursing. She earned an certification to become an Emergency Medical Technician and volunteered with Minquas Fire Co. 2.
According to Downes’ trial memorandum, Downes went to Axia Women’s Health, Strafford, Tredyffrin Township, on March 13 and 29, 2018 to be treated for a lump on her breast.
The plan was to follow-up as needed.
Nurse Carpenter did not follow the protocols for standard care, plaintiffs wrote.
She reported the mass was benign and Downes was not treated in a timely manner for breast cancer.
Nine months later in December 2018, the cancer was diagnosed.
If the cancer was properly diagnosed, the plaintiff’s witnesses testified, the cancerous tumor would have been much smaller.
The attorney representing Carpenter wrote in a trial memorandum that Carpenter conducted an examination on March 29 without palpation of a lump.
Carpenter adhered to the guidelines provided by the premier organization for obstetricians and gynecologists, the American College of Gynecologists, in treating a 22-year-old patient.
In Carpenter’s profile on the healthcare’s website, Carpenter is listed as the head nurse who has worked for Axia since 1992.
In her position, she has performed gynecological exams.
Carpenter received a certification as an ob/gyn nurse practitioner from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America/University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
She graduated cum laude in nursing from Eastern College as an ob/gyn nurse practitioner.