SHIRLEY HAGEN, Wife and Personal Representative for the Estate of GREGORY HAGEN, Appellant,
GUNNAR STROBEL, M.D. and ALAN E. SKOLNICK, M.D., Appellees.
Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District No. 3AN-11-12832 CI, Anchorage, Patrick J. McKay, Judge.
James Alan Wendt, Law Offices of James Alan Wendt, Anchorage, for Appellant.
Timothy J. Lamb, Donna M. Meyers, and Whitney L. Traeger, Delaney Wiles, Inc., Anchorage, for Appellees.
Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.
A cardiologist performed pacemaker surgery on Gregory Hagen and then ordered an x-ray to examine the placement of the pacemaker leads and check for complications. A second cardiologist reviewed the x-ray and discharged Gregory from the hospital. A radiologist also reviewed the x-ray, noted a potential "nodule" in Gregory's lung, and recommended follow-up x-rays. But these recommendations were never relayed to Gregory, who died from lung cancer approximately two years later.
Gregory's wife, Shirley Hagen,  filed a medical negligence suit against the two cardiologists, alleging that their failure to relay the radiologist's recommendations resulted in a lost chance of survival for Gregory. The superior court granted summary judgment to the cardiologists on the grounds that expert testimony from a board-certified cardiologist was required to establish the standard of care and that the Estate had failed to identify such an expert. In this appeal, the Estate argues that there is a genuine issue of material fact whether the cardiologist who ordered the x-ray later received the radiologist's report. But the Estate does not show how this issue is material to the superior court's decision regarding the necessity of expert testimony to establish the standard of care. We therefore affirm.
II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
In November 2007 D r. Gunnar Strobel, a board-certified cardiologist with the Alaska Heart Institute in Anchorage, implanted a pacemaker in Gregory Hagen at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center in Palmer. The following day Dr. Strobel ordered an x-ray to examine the "positioning of the pacemaker leads" and check for "implantation complications." He then returned to Anchorage. Dr. Alan Skolnick, another board-certified cardiologist, reviewed the x-ray for complications and dictated a discharge report. Gregory was then discharged from the hospital.
A radiologist also reviewed the x-ray and dictated a report (the Radiologist Report). In addition to noting the placement of the pacemaker leads, the Radiologist Report observed:
A 1 cm density projects in the right upper lobe. It is seen in the second anterior interspace near the intersection with the fourth posterior rib space. The possibility of the nodule is raised. When the patient's condition permits, PA, shallow obliques, lateral[, ] and apical lordotic views are suggested for further evaluation.
And under the heading "Impression, " the Radiologist Report noted: "Equivocal for right upper lobe nodule. Recommend followup with PA, lateral, obliques[, ] and apical lordotic when the patient's condition stabilizes."
In March 2008 Gregory saw Dr. Strobel for a follow-up appointment. According to Dr. Strobel, the purpose of the visit was to "check the pacemaker, discuss the chest pain [Gregory] had experienced in December 2007, and [discuss] the results of [the] December nuclear stress test [that followed]." The parties agree that Gregory never received any ...