hot-topic left smallNew Jersey’s state appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a back-injury patient who claimed doctors at Riverview Medical Center failed to inform him of x-rays showing he also had a large kidney stone.

In its decision of last Thursday, the Appellate Division ruled that a Superior Court judge was correct to dismiss a medical negligence claim by John Cifaretto, who underwent a series of treatments for the stone and claimed he suffered permanent kidney damage.

According to a summary of the lawsuit contained in the decision, Cifaretto went to the emergency room at Riverview in March, 2005, complaining of lower back pain suffered in a fall four days earlier.

An x-ray led Dr. Mark J.K. Dalton, an emergency room doctor, to diagnose back strain. He prescribed pain medication and told Cifaretto to see his primary care physician for a follow-up.

Afterward, radiologist Dr. Robert Wold noted in a report that Cifaretto’s x-rays also showed “a 1.4-centimeter stone, or ‘calculus,’ in plaintiff’s left abdomen,” the court recitation says. “Wold’s report further indicated that the calculus ‘could represent a calcified lymph node although a ureteral stone cannot be clearly excluded.’ ”

It was undisputed that no one told Cifaretto or his primary care doctor about the additional finding.

Five months later, Cifaretto was back in Riverview’s ER, this time for treatment of an impacted kidney stone. After several unsuccessful treatments at Riverview, doctors at Morristown Memorial Hospital removed the stone in March, 2006. “Nevertheless, plaintiff allegedly suffered permanent renal damage from the impaction,” the decision says.

Cifaretto sued, claiming that Dalton, Wold and Riverview had deviated from appropriate standards of care by failing to inform him of the stone.

A Superior Court later threw out the case against Wold, who worked at Red Bank Radiologists, which was under contract with the hospital; the judge found before trial that there was “absolutely nothing” in the case to suggest Wold had done anything wrong. Later, the cases against Dalton and Riverview were also dismissed.

Cifaretto appealed all three decisions. But the appeals court found that the cases had rightly been dismissed. Regarding the hospital, the court concluded that Cifaretto “was unable to establish, in the first instance, that either Wold or Dalton were negligent,” and that therefore Riverview couldn’t be held liable, either.