A New York County jury has awarded a landscaper and his ex-wife $4,873,703.08 in a medical malpractice lawsuit after a doctor misdiagnosed him with Myasthenia Gravis and treated him aggressively and invasively for nearly four years. Robert Wyble, 51, an Orange County, New York resident, underwent surgery, took medications, and had weekly plasmapharesis for years before he was correctly diagnosed with a different illness. National Trial Lawyers Top 100 attorney Richard Gurfein of Gurfein Douglas, LLP in New York, NY represented Wyble and his wife.
In the spring of 2005, Wyble’s primary care doctor referred him to an upstate neurologist because he had been falling down for unknown reasons. The neurologist then referred Wyble to Dr. Dale J. Lange, a specialist at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. Following an examination and tests, Dr. Lange told Wyble he believed Wyble suffered from Myasthenia Gravis, a neuromuscular autoimmune disease.
Myasthenia Gravis causes antibodies to disrupt the signal sent from the brain to the receptor cells of muscles, causing muscle weakness. There is no definitive diagnostic test for Myasthenia Gravis; only test results that are consistent with the disease and other diseases.
Despite extensive blood testing and CT scans, Dr. Lange never found either antibodies known to disrupt the receptor cells or tumors of the thymus gland that may also cause Myasthenia Gravis. Despite that, Dr. Lange concluded that Wyble had the disease, and that without aggressive treatment, he would become disabled and eventually die.
In July 2005, Dr. Lange prescribed Mestinon for Wyble, a drug intended to eliminate antibodies from the blood. By August 2006, Dr. Lange urged Wyble to undergo a thymectomy to remove his thymus gland, which is believed to play a role in the body’s autoimmune system. Wyble underwent the thymectomy in January 2007. Dr. Lange then prescribed increasing amounts of medication. By May 2007, Wyble was taking four immunosuppressant drugs, and in September of that year he began undergoing biweekly plasmapharesis, a plasma exchange procedure, through a surgically implanted port.
Wyble and his wife went to New York City in April 2009 for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Lange. When they got to Mt. Sinai, they were told he was no longer working at the hospital. They managed to track him down at the Hospital for Special Surgery, and made an appointment to see him there. When they did, Dr. Lange told the Wybles that he could no longer write a prescription for plamapharesis at Mt. Sinai, and he couldn’t write one at New York Hospital until his privileges were approved. So, Dr. Lange tried to arrange for a friend of his at Mt. Sinai to write the prescription, but that person refused because Wyble wasn’t his patient. Five or six weeks after his last plasmapharesis treatment, Wyble grew desperate and arranged to see another neurologist at Mt. Sinai, Dr. Betty Mintz. After examining Wyble, Dr. Mintz questioned the diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis. But, because of the patient’s insistence and out of respect for Dr. Lange, she agreed to continue his plasmapharesis. She did, however, begin taking Wyble off his immunosuppressant medications.
In November 2009, Wyble’s surgically implanted port for the plasma exchange procedure became infected. He was hospitalized at Mt. Sinai and given intravenous antibiotics. Dr. Mintz noted in his hospital chart that she never believed Wyble had Myasthenia Gravis. She then discontinued all remaining immunosuppressant medications, had the port removed, and discontinued all plamapharesis treatments. The reason he was falling was diagnosed as Cataplexy, and a prescription for Ritalin written by Dr. Lange in 2008 was continued and enhanced by Dr. Mintz. As a result, Wyble no longer has issues with falling down.
When Wyble was told he had Myasthenia Gravis, he went into an emotional tailspin. He became withdrawn, depressed, and stopped taking part in child raising, housekeeping and his marriage. His wife Zaida became sole caregiver to their children as well as to her husband. Every night, she had to clean and flush his plasmapharesis port, making sure it was sterile and didn’t clot. However after Dr. Mintz stopped his treatment for the disease Wyble didn’t have, Wyble didn’t recover from his depression and withdrawal. Over the next two years, Mrs. Wyble could no longer ignore the fact that she was no longer Robert’s wife, but his caregiver. She had hoped that he would bounce back after finding out that he didn’t have Myasthenia Gravis. When he didn’t, Mrs. Wyble moved out of their home in December 2011 and began divorce proceedings.
Despite his loss, Wyble is today back working full time, is taking up dancing as a hobby, and rarely falls down.
On March 18, 2014, a three man, three woman jury in Supreme Court/New York County awarded Wyble $373,703.08 for past medical expenses, $2,000,000 for his pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment, as well as $1,500,000 over the next 28 years for future pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment. The jury also awarded Mrs. Wyble $1,000,000 for her claim of loss of service, society and companionship.
The case is Robert Wyble and Zaida Wyble v. Dale J. Lange in the Supreme Court of New York Count, Index No. 114045/10. The case was tried before Justice Geoffrey D. Wright. Craig Fenno of Aaronson Rappaport Feinstein & Deutsch represented the defendant.