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Court rejects expert testimony regarding spread of squamous cell carcinoma

The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of Robert Shaw's malpractice claim against Joseph W. Kaufman, M.D. and Kaufman's Dermatology practice in Macomb-Oakland County.  Shaw sued Kaufman after the patch of "psoriasis" that Kaufman had treated for 7 years turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma.  When Shaw saw another doctor, Howard Lipkin, in 2006, Lipkin promptly made the proper diagnosis and Shaw embarked on a complicated course of surgical treatment that was signficantly disfiguring.  He alleged that because of Kaufman's negligence, the tumor had grown substantially and the necessary treatment was much more involved and more disfiguring.  Shaw testified that the spot on his eyebrow changed over the years of treatment, but he could not specify precisely when the change in appearance occurred.  Kaufman continued to treat the area with a prescription cream or spray but never biopsied it.

The Court concluded that the expert testimony presented by Shaw was too speculative and did not establish when the aberrant cells became malignant or how fast they grew.  As a result, the court held that Shaw could not prove just how much injury and damage had resulted from Kaufman's care.  Shaw's expert had testified that he could not confirm whether the spot on Shaw's eyebrow was cancerous at the time Shaw last saw Kaufman and the expert also confirmed that the growth rate for squamous cell is too variable to allow for an estimate of its duration at this location.  He also could not put a date on the dermis invasion that necessitated the radical surgical procedure necessary to treat Shaw.

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