Ira Saul’s Former Victories: Federal Tort Claim for Medical Malpractice

Jack R. Snead, a Civil Engineer for the State Department’s Agency for International Development met and married his wife, Yen L. Snead, in Vietnam. Shortly after their marriage, the Sneads moved to Yemen and later to Egypt, where Mr. Snead was stationed. While in Cairo, Mrs. Snead began complaining about abnormal menstrual bleeding. While on leave in the United States, she sought medical attention from two State Department Health Clinic physicians, Drs. Joseph Sheffery and Thomas Wilson, after receiving a referral. The Clinic grants clearances for international travel, examining well over 5,000 employees and spouses each year. At the time of Mrs. Snead’s appointment, the two gynecologists failed to give her a Pap smear, which would have detected a tumor in her cervix. With early treatment, Mrs. Snead would have had a range of options and a much better chance of recovery. Instead, the two physicians prescribed her a drug that merely masked the presence of the tumor. Drs. Sheffery and Wilson cleared Mrs. Snead to return to Egypt with her husband. The following year, however, doctors discovered the tumor when symptoms persisted. As a result, Mrs. Snead underwent a radical hysterectomy at Alexandria Hospital in Virginia.

Three years after her hysterectomy, doctors found a cancerous spot on her lung during another routine examination. Medical professionals believe the cancer spread from her cervix and could have been prevented had Drs. Sheffery and Wilson caught the initial tumor. After this diagnosis, Mrs. Snead underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, in addition to taking several prescriptions for the mental anguish caused by the cancer. At the time of the trial, doctors gave her less than a year to live.

United States District Judge Joyce Hens Green ruled in favor of Mrs. Snead, ordering the federal government to pay Mrs. Snead money damages and to pay her husband for loss of consortium. The judgment amount totaled $1.4 million.