On January 17, 2014, after a five-day medical malpractice trial, a Maryland jury in a very conservative jurisdiction returned its verdict in the amount of $2.5 million after finding a surgeon was medically negligent in failing to timely diagnose a 19-year-old’s cancer that resulted in her death.
The jury that consisted of four men and two women deliberated for four and a half hours before awarding $2.1 million in noneconomic damages ($1.5 million to the woman’s estate and $300,000 each to her parents, which total will be reduced to $887,500, pursuant to Maryland’s cap (limit) on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases that was in effect at the time), $402,000 for medical expenses, and $10,000 for funeral expenses.
The Underlying Facts
In 2006, when the girl was 19, her primary care physician referred her to a surgeon to evaluate her continuing rectal bleeding. The Maryland medical malpractice claim alleged that the surgeon who examined the girl on September 7, 2006 performed a digital rectal exam after which he diagnosed her as having a healing anal fissure and recommended the use of stool softeners if her rectal bleeding continued.
While the girl’s rectal bleeding continued, her parents relied on the surgeon’s diagnosis in not obtaining further medical diagnosis and treatment. The woman returned to her primary care physician in the spring of 2010, with complaints of weight loss in conjunction with frequent diarrhea and continuing bleeding. The primary care physician referred her to a gastroenterologist, who found a small rectal cancer in May 2010. The cancer spread to her lungs and liver. The girl was 25 when she died from rectal cancer in July 2012, despite aggressive medical treatment.
The Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that had the surgeon performed timely and appropriate medical testing, the girl’s rectal cancer would have been timely diagnosed and successfully treated. The Maryland medical malpractice jury found that the surgeon had breached the standard of care. The jury also found that the girl was contributorily negligent, but that her negligence was not a cause of her death (Maryland is one of a few states in which contributory negligence is a complete bar to recovery; therefore, it was critical to the plaintiffs’ success in pursuing their medical malpractice claim that the jury determine that contributory negligence was not a cause of the woman’s death.)
The Maryland medical malpractice verdict was rendered against the defendant surgeon and his medical practice. The malpractice lawsuit was originally filed on October 1, 2012. After the verdict was read, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys stated on behalf of the woman’s parents, “They were obviously please with the jury’s finding, but obviously they don’t have their daughter.”
If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries (or death) as a result of medical malpractice in Maryland or in another state in the United States, you should promptly seek the advice of a Maryland medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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