Newswire (Published: Thursday, January 16, 2020, Received: Wednesday, January 22, 2020, 2:36:59 AM CST)

Word Count: 710

A federal judge has awarded a Cape Girardeau couple $5.7 million in damages after finding that the federal government, through the Department of Veterans Affairs, was negligent in failing to timely diagnose a man’s prostate cancer.

On Dec. 30, U.S. District Judge Abbie Crites-Leoni entered findings of fact and conclusions of law and a judgment for $5,712,402 for Coyvell and Brenda Jackson.

The court awarded $4,062,652 to Coyvell Jackson for damages on his Federal Tort Claims Act claim, and $1,649,750 to Brenda Jackson for her claim of loss of consortium.

According to the findings of fact, Coyvell Jackson, 56, is a Navy veteran who receives regular care at the VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff and the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Cape Girardeau.

In 2009, he began regular testing for prostate-specific antigen, also known as PSA. PSA is a protein produced in the prostate, and PSA testing is primarily used to screen for prostate cancer. Under the VA guidelines, a score above 4 is considered to be high.

Coyvell Jackson underwent PSA screening seven times between 2009 and 2015. Crites-Leoni, citing his medical records, said the VA system flagged several of Jackson’s tests results as being high, but it prescribed antibiotics in response rather than directing him to have an immediate biopsy.

During an examination with a VA claims adjuster in February 2016, he was advised he might have prostate cancer because his most recent PSA level was higher than 10. Jackson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in April 2016.

Crites-Leoni found that the federal government breached the standard of care when VA physicians failed to rule out prostate cancer by completing a biopsy after finding that Jackson’s PSA rose above 4 to 8.75 in July 2014.

She pointed to testimony from Dr. Arnold Bullock, a private treating urologist and expert, who said if Coyvell Jackson had had a biopsy in 2014, it more likely than not would have shown cancer. Bullock also testified that by May 2015, Jackson’s cancer no longer was confined to the prostate but had spread to surrounding tissue.

Bullock also testified that if Jackson’s prostate had been biopsied and doctors had diagnosed the cancer by May 15, he would have needed only a prostatectomy. Instead, he required additional treatment, including salvage radiation and hormone ablation therapy.

Bullock said as a result of salvage radiation, Jackson suffers from incontinence, complete erectile dysfunction and a reduced life expectancy.

Bullock also testified that there is a 36 percent chance Jackson’s PSA could rise again, requiring additional work-up and treatment for cancer.

The parties did not dispute Jackson’s economic damages, but the federal government disputed whether Missouri’s statutory caps on noneconomic damages enacted in 2015 apply in the case.

The defendant argued that the plaintiffs’ noneconomic damages should be capped at $748,828.

Crites-Leoni sided with the plaintiffs, finding their claims accrued in May 2015 before the enactment of the caps on noneconomic damages.

Zachary R. Pancoast of Rossiter and Boock in Clayton represented the Jacksons. He said he and his clients are “very happy with [Crites-Leoni’s] ruling and depth and breadth of the award and the decision-making behind it.”

“[I] couldn’t be happier for the veteran and his wife,” he said.

Amy E. Sestric, an assistant U.S. attorney in St. Louis, represented the government. She declined to comment on the ruling.

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[box type="shadow" align="alignleft"]Federal Tort Claims Act

Venue: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri

Case Number/Date: 1:18-cv-00009/Dec. 30, 2019

Judge: Abbie Crites-Leoni

Breakdown: $4,062,652 for Coyvell Jackson, including $68,780 for past economic damages, $1 million for past noneconomic damages, $693,871 for future economic damages and $2.3 million for future noneconomic damages; $1,649,750 for Brenda Jackson, including $500,000 in past noneconomic damages and $1,149,750 in future noneconomic damages

Caption: Coyvell Jackson and Brenda Jackson v. United States of America

Plaintiff’s Experts: Arnold Bullock, St. Louis (urology); Rebecca Summary, Cape Girardeau (economics)

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Jamie L. Boock and Zachary R. Pancoast, Rossiter and Boock, Clayton

Defendant’s Attorneys: Steven K. Luther and Amy E. Sestric, assistant U.S. attorneys, St. Louis[/box]

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