Torts – Mental Distress – Recovery Against Original Wrongdoer for Fear of Cancer Caused by Subsequent Medical Advice

Plaintiff, suffering from bursitis in the right shoulder, received X-ray treatments from defendant physicians. Subsequent thereto, plaintiff’s shoulder began to itch, scab, and blister for several years, a condition diagnosed as chronic radiodermatitis caused by the X-ray therapy. Approximately two years after the treatments, plaintiff was examined by a dermatologist who advised her to have her shoulder checked every six months because the area might become cancerous. Plaintiff then developed a severe “cancerphobia,” an apprehension that she would ultimately develop cancer from the radiation burn. Plaintiff brought a malpractice suit against defendant physicians, seeking recovery for the physical injury and the mental distress caused by her later-developed fear of cancer. The trial court gave judgment for plaintiff and the appellate division affirmed. On appeal, held, affirmed, three judges dissenting in part. Plaintiff can recover for the mental suffering which resulted from information she received from a third party to whom she had gone for treatment of the original physical injury. Ferrara v. Galluchio, 5 N.Y. (2d) 16, 152 N.E. (2d) 249 (1958).