On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-6820-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges A. A. Rodriguez and C. L. Miniman.
Adelina Gapac appeals the summary judgment dismissing her suit against Vitreo-Retinal Associates of New Jersey, P.A., (VRA) and Francis Cangemi, M.D.*fn1 for medical malpractice. We affirm.
Gapac's eye doctor referred her to VRA in 1995 because of her vision problems. After an examination, VRA doctors Caesar Pitta and Francis Cangemi explained to Gapac that although surgery was not strictly necessary, there was an elective procedure which could correct her vision problems by removing the epiretinal member from her left eye. Cangemi had performed approximately five thousand of these surgeries, and explained that there was about a two-percent risk of suffering a retinal detachment which could result in partial blindness.
Gapac testified that the doctors never mentioned the risk of partial blindness. According to her, she raised the possibility of blindness and Cangemi "assured [her] it's not going to happen."
During the following months, Gapac visited two more doctors to get second opinions about the surgery. She testified that both doctors recommended the surgery, but were evasive about the risks, saying only that "[y]ou are not going to go blind."
Gapac was afraid of the risks of the surgery. Her daughters also feared that she would lose her eyesight and attempted to dissuade her from having the surgery. Nevertheless, Gapac "was determined to go ahead" with the procedure.
On April 24, 1997, Cangemi performed the surgery at Columbus Hospital. Unfortunately, it was clear shortly after her surgery "[t]hat something was wrong." Her retina had detached and follow-up surgery was necessary. Despite the corrective surgery, Gapac lost the central vision in her left eye. The condition has not improved since April 1997.
Gapac continued post-operative treatment with Cangemi until approximately December 1999. According to Gapac, Cangemi routinely advised her that the condition would heal and that her eyesight would return. The condition did not improve. During the post-operative treatment period, Gapac became concerned that Cangemi was not giving her an accurate diagnosis and decided to visit other doctors.
The first doctor she saw was Dr. Eric Kanter. Kanter blamed her partial blindness on the surgery. In a June 24, 1999 letter to another of Gapac's eye doctors on which Gapac was copied, Kanter stated that Gapac would not "realize any improvements in central visual function," from additional treatment, "given the extent of her macular scarring" in the left eye. In another letter on which Gapac was copied, Kanter explained that Gapac's "[s]tatus [was] post repair of retinal detachment."
Gapac testified that she did not receive either of these letters and was unaware of their contents. She alleges that Kanter only told her that her "eye [was] fine" and would not answer when her vision would return.
During the next three years, Gapac visited at least six more ophthalmologists. According to her, these doctors did not attribute her injury to her surgery or inform her ...