Settlement reached in Pap smear lawsuit

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- The family of a suburban St. Louis woman who died of cervical cancer has reached a $4 million settlement over a laboratory's failure to detect signs of the disease.

The settlement was the largest in Missouri history for a lawsuit involving a misread Pap smear, Missouri Lawyers Weekly reported this week.

Dr. Lynne Toombs-Datema's Pap smear in 1994 was sent to Metropolitan Reference Laboratory in St. Louis. The lab is no longer in business. As part of the settlement, the name of the lab's insurance company was not identified.

Missouri Lawyers Weekly said a lab technician for Metropolitan did not report any abnormal cells. Four years later, Toombs-Datema, of Ladue, was diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the cervix.

Radiation and chemotherapy initially shrunk the tumor, but it soon spread. Datema died in October 2000. She was 37.

Toombs-Datema was married with two small children. In the lawsuit, her family claimed the presence of abnormal cells should have been detected and referred to a pathologist. Lawyers for the family said if the Pap smear had been read correctly, Toombs-Datema's chances of survival would have been greatly enhanced.

The case was settled before it reached a St. Louis County jury.

Ken Jones, editor of Missouri Lawyers Weekly, said a similar case in 2000 resulted in a $2.25 million settlement, the previous high. He said several factors, including Toombs-Datema's age and accomplishments, resulted in the large settlement. Toombs-Datema held a Ph.D. in economics.


On the Net:

Missouri Lawyers Weekly: http://www.molawyersweekly.com

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