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Jury Clears GI Doc of Negligence in Colon Cancer Suit

A jury found David Vastola, DO, not negligent in performing a 2011 colonoscopy on a patient who 18 months later presented with terminal colon cancer.

Published: August 23, 2017

CLOSE LOOK The lawsuit alleged that Dr. Vastola overlooked a lesion during an October 2011 colonoscopy that later progressed into metastatic colon cancer.

A South Florida gastroenterologist has been cleared of negligence in a lawsuit alleging that he missed an early-stage adenocarcinoma in the transverse colon that later progressed into metastatic colon cancer.

It took about 90 minutes of deliberation for jurors in a West Palm Beach, Fla., courtroom to find David Vastola, DO, of Your Good Health Medical Group not liable for Zaven Kazandjian's colon cancer. The 9-day trial focused largely on whether Dr. Vastola could or should have found the abnormality.

In a complaint filed in May 2015, Mr. Kazandjian alleged that Dr. Vastola was "careless, negligent and breached the professional standard of care" in a number of ways. This included the failure to properly evaluate and perform the 2011 colonoscopy, which prompted Mr. Kazandjian's return 18 months later with complaints of blood in his stool. The plaintiffs also contended that Dr. Vastola violated international gastroenterology guidelines because he did not record certain details of the 2011 colonoscopy.

Dr. Vastola's legal team countered that the cancer couldn't have been discovered in 2011, because it either didn't exist or was too insignificant to perceive. The defense also said Mr. Kazandjian's cancer was not unique in developing in the 18-month span between the 2011 and 2013 procedures.

Dr. Vastola's attorney, Hector Buigas, believes his client's more than 40 years as a board-certified gastroenterologist, as well as the implausibility of the plaintiff's argument, led to the favorable verdict.

"The plaintiff's theory was that he allegedly missed a 1 cm cancerous tumor in the easiest part of the colon to visualize, and it didn't seem likely," he says. "The plaintiff contended that it takes upwards of 10 to 12 years for a polyp to grow and become cancerous. This means that a separate GI specialist would have missed the same lesion twice before, which is again unlikely for a transverse lesion."

Mr. Kazandjian and his legal team did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Buigas says the plaintiff will file a motion requesting a new trial, which he believes is likely to be denied. He also says he expects the plaintiff to appeal the verdict.

Bill Donahue

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