According to an ABC News report, a 35-year old woman underwent a double mastectomy after being told she had breast cancer, when in fact, she did not. The Long Beach, Long Island victim has now filed suit in Nassau County Supreme Court.
If, in fact, the technician was cutting corners either to save time or money, then we may be looking at a very rare beast: A matter of punitive damages in a medical malpractice case (though this could also be a matter of general negligence if done by the lab and not medical malpractice). The standard here in New York for punitive damages is reckless conduct that endangers the health, safety and well-being of the public (as opposed to negligent conduct). And this must be proven by clear and convincing evidence (as opposed to preponderance of the evidence).
In fact, just last week the Appellate Division Second Department (where this case resides) issued an opinion on the subject of punitive damages in the context of an abortion case. In Randi A. J. v Long Is. Surgi-Center, the defendant disclosed to the mother of the patient that her daughter had been in, allowing the mother to deduce her daughter had an abortion. While the case was sent back to the trial court on other grounds, it is a good discussion of the state of punitive damages law in New York.