• April 9, 2010

It is fair to say that the Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic is one of a few proverbial “crown jewels” of Minnesota (along with the boundary waters, Louise Erdrich, Prince and A Prairie Home Companion).  The Mayo Clinic’s preeminence in medical care is generally unchallenged and widely acknowledged.  Its unsurpassed reputation for patient care is presumably reflected in a relatively low rate of successful medical malpractice claims.

It is premature to suggest that a Mayo MD will be tagged with a successful malpractice claim in the Tyler case, but a plaintiff has made it past summary judgment so, unless it settles, a jury will likely decide whether the Clinic’s failure to act on an identified “large inhomogeneous mass…worrisome for renal cell carcinoma” noted by a radiologist in a kidney in 1999 resulted in Thomas Tyler’s death in October, 2007 (the condition went untreated for six years after first being noted).  Surprisingly, the Mayo Clinic admitted that the oversight of the radiologist’s 1999 note breached applicable standards of care but the defendants went on to argue, in essence, that Tyler’s cancer in 1999 was probably sufficiently advanced so that he would not likely have been saved even if they had acted on that finding in ’99.   Plaintiff, on the other hand, was supported by an expert witness prepared to offer evidence to the contrary — that is, evidence that the Stage IV cancer identified in 2005 would have been Stage I or Stage II cancer in 1999 (and, therefore, offering a far better prognosis if it had been treated earlier).

U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim (D. Minn.) rejected defendant’s attack on plaintiff’s expert and ruled against defendants’ motion for summary judgment based on the statute of limitation, as well.

This was not the first time Minnesota Litigator has noted a decision by Judge Tunheim that the Mayo Clinic would have like to have seen go the other way.

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