Radiologist dodges malpractice suit, attorney must pay $1.2M for mishandling case

A civil attorney must pay out $1.2 million to a patient who originally wanted to sue a Colorado radiologist for not spotting her brain tumor, but instead sued her former legal representation after mismanaging the malpractice claim.

Della Gallegos first reported severe headaches in 2006, prompting her to undergo MRI scans that were later reviewed by Colorado Springs radiologist Steven Hughes, MD, the Gazette reported Jan 24. A brain tumor on those images went unnoticed by the imaging expert; three years later a clinician finally spotted the abnormality, but it had already grown to the point where hazardous surgery was the only option.  

Gallegos’ legal representative at the time, Patric J. LeHouillier, never filed her suit against the radiologist, allowing the statute of limitations to expire after three years. The plaintiffs’ current attorney, Chad Hemmat, then sued LeHouillier and won the case on Jan. 21 after jurors determined the Colorado Springs lawyer was negligent in handling the case. Hughes, the originally intended target of Gallegos’ suit, also testified during the trial to prove that the patient would have won if her complaint was filed on time.

LeHouillier must pay $1.2 million to Gallegos, which could increase to $3 million with compounded interest. As a result of her three open brain surgeries, Gallegos is now partially blind and deaf, with short-term memory loss. Had the tumor been spotted in 2006, the Gazette reported, it could have been treated with a “low-impact procedure” that has a greater than 95% success rate.

“They basically just didn’t calendar this thing properly and forgot about it. And then they decided, ‘Well, we’ll just rely on the fact that Della has memory problems,’” Hemmat said to the Gazette.

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