New Brunswick

Dr. Rajgopal Menon dies in midst of class-action lawsuit

A class-action lawsuit against Dr. Rajgopal Menon and the Horizon Health Network will proceed, despite the recent death of the disgraced Miramichi pathologist, lawyers say.

Disgraced Miramichi pathologist misdiagnosed thousands of samples between 1995 and 2007

A class-action lawsuit against Dr. Rajgopal Menon and the Horizon Health Network will proceed, despite the recent death of the disgraced Miramichi pathologist, says one of the lawyers representing the patients.

Dr. Raj Menon became the defendant in a class-action lawsuit after he was found to have partially or fully misdiagnosed thousands of pathology samples in New Brunswick between 1995 and 2007. (CBC)
"It does cause complications to the case," said Ray Wagner, of the Halifax-based serious injury law firm Wagners.

But Horizon, which absorbed the former Miramichi Regional Health Authority years ago, is now the target, he said.

"The focus, really, is that they did nothing when they were aware that there were serious issues in the pathology lab," he said. "And they didn't do what they were supposed to do to ensure they had a competent pathologist working in that lab."

Menon died on April 21.

The class-action lawsuit against him and the Miramichi Regional Health Authority dates back to 2008.

It was filed after a public inquiry found Menon partially or fully misdiagnosed thousands of pathology samples in New Brunswick between 1995 and 2007.

The certification order issued by the court defines the "class" in the lawsuit as including:

  • More than 15,000 patients whose tissue samples underwent pathology testing by Menon between Jan. 1, 1995 and Feb. 7, 2007.
  • The estates, children, parents and spouses of deceased patients.

'Somebody has to be held accountable'

About 100 former patients have signed up for the class action. Jim Wilson is among them.

Wilson was misdiagnosed for almost three years.

"Finally after the third set of biopsies, I was diagnosed with cancer. And by then, it was on both sides of my prostate," he said.

Today, Wilson is cancer-free, but is pleased to see the lawsuit go ahead, even with Menon gone.

"Somebody has to be held accountable for what happened up there," he said.

​Horizon officials declined to comment.

The lawyer for Menon's estate was unavailable for an interview on Monday.

Wagners was only advised on Menon's death on May 6, about one week after his passing, said Wagner.

Schedule to deal with continuance matters

A case management conference was held on June 2 before Justice Jean-Paul Ouellette to set up a schedule to deal with various matters concerning the continuance of the class action

The schedule extends until March 31, 2016, with another case management call slated for Aug. 19, 2015.

The Court of Appeal agreed in February 2014, to allow the class-action lawsuit against Menon and the Miramichi health authority to go ahead, making it the first class-action lawsuit to be certified in New Brunswick since legislation in 1982 was enacted to allow such lawsuits.

In a 2-1 decision, the province's highest court overruled the lower court decision that struck down the class action brought by former patients.

Menon worked as a pathologist at the Miramichi Regional Health Authority from 1995 until February 2007, when he was suspended after complaints about incomplete diagnoses and delayed lab results.

Former health minister Michael Murphy called a formal public inquiry into the pathology work at the Miramichi hospital after an independent audit of 227 cases of breast and prostate cancer biopsies from 2004-05 found 18 per cent had incomplete results and three per cent had been misdiagnosed.

Justice Paul Creaghan found that Menon should have been fired two years before he was suspended.

Creaghan's final report offered 52 recommendations to improve pathology services in the province.