Failure to diagnose cancer leads to amputation of finger and $150,000 jury verdict. Los Angeles County.


Defendant plastic surgeon treated plaintiff's finger for 18 months, including performing four surgeries, before referring to another specialist who correctly diagnosed cancer.

The Case

  • Case Name: David DiGregorio v. Joel Aronowitz, M.D.
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court/ BC441576
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, November 08, 2012
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, July 14, 2010
  • Type of Case: Medical Malpractice
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Deirdre Hill
  • Plaintiffs:
    David DiGregorio, 54, actor/producer
  • Defendants:
    Joel Aronowitz, M.D.
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $150,000
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    $150,000 against Dr. Joel Aronowitz.

  • Economic Damages:

    $100,000 for future medical expenses.

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $50,000 for past pain and suffering.

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 8 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days
  • Jury Polls: 9-3

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Altman Law Group by Bryan C. Altman, Los Angeles
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Taylor Blessey LLP by Denise Taylor, Los Angeles

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
    Leo Indianer, M. D., dermatopathology, Encino
  • Defendant's Medical Experts:
    Malcolm LeSavoy, M.D., F.A.C.S., reconstructive surgery, Encino
  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    Dr. Barbara Luna, Ph.D., CPA, Sherman Oaks

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff was referred to defendant doctor, a board-certified plastic surgeon, in August 2007  for treatment of a swelling in his right middle finger.  Over a period of 18 months, the defendant examined and treated plaintiff's finger, diagnosed him with chronic perinychium, and performed four separate but very similar surgeries. 

    During this time, the plaintiff continued to experience significant pain and his swelling never healed. In fact, his swelling continued to get worse until the defendant referred him to Dr. Stuart Kuschner (not a defendant), a surgeon specializing in hand surgery. Dr. Kuschner immediately ordered an MRI and also ordered a biopsy which revealed a large and deeply imbedded squamous cell carcinoma. Having been advised to pursue radiation treatment to try to stave off amputation of his finger, the plaintiff underwent approximately 30 radiation treatments, but to no avail as his cancer remained. Ultimately, it was necessary for him to have a partial amputation of his finger. 


  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant provided negligent treatment and misdiagnosed plaintiff's ailment.

    That an initial biopsy performed by defendant was only a partial or incomplete biopsy, and that defendant never had any tissue tested or completely biopsied despite treating the plaintiff for approximately 18 months and despite the fact that the defendant operated on the plaintiff's finger four times during this same period.

    That had the defendant correctly treated the plaintiff, his cancer, which was determined to be a slow-growing cancer, would have been able to be detected and treated with micrographic surgery and the plaintiff would have avoided amputation.

    Further, that as a result of the cancer going undetected and because of the size, depth and perineural involvement of the cancer, there is a reasonable medical probability that plaintiff will suffer metastasis and die prematurely.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That defendant's treatment of plaintiff's finger met the standard of care.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Amputation of finger and risk of recurrence of cancer.

  • Pain and suffering.

    Plaintiff was deeply affected by the condition of his finger. First, surgery on the fingers can be extremely painful since there are a large number of nerves in the fingers and the plaintiff underwent four separate surgeries on his finger by the defendant. Second, the pain affected his day-to-day life, his interaction with his children, and his job prospects. In addition, the anticipation of the amputation and the amputation, itself, as well as the radiation, ensuing pain and discomfort were all agonizing to the plaintiff. Finally, the prospect of having to prepare his family for his premature demise and the prospecct of future cancer treatments, have been overwhelming.


Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $100,000

Demands and Offers

  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $20,000

Additional Notes