On November 25, 2013, a Montgomery County Maryland medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in the amount of $3.75 million in favor of the family of a 74-year-old man whose lung cancer diagnosis was delayed by 20 months after his primary care physician failed to properly follow up regarding a lung CT scan that showed a suspicious abnormality.
The man’s CT scan showed a consolidation in his lung that could be indicative of pneumonia, scarring, tuberculosis, or lung cancer. The CT scan finding was reported to the man’s primary care physician, who assumed that the consolidation did not indicate cancer. Instead of ordering an appropriate repeat CT scan to determine if the consolidation had resolved, the primary care physician waited for 20 months until he diagnosed his patient with lung cancer; the man died 9 months later.
The medical malpractice plaintiffs alleged that the primary care physician was negligent by not ordering a timely repeat CT scan and that the physician’s medical negligence led to the late and untimely diagnosis of his patient’s lung cancer, by which time it was incurable. The medical malpractice defendants alleged that the man did not show any signs of lung cancer, pneumonia, or tuberculosis. Furthermore, the defendants alleged that even if the man’s lung cancer had been diagnosed much earlier, it was already at stage IV, which they argued meant that the cancer was incurable at that time. The plaintiffs countered that at the time of the CT scan, the man’s lung cancer was at stage I, which was treatable if it had been diagnosed then, but the 20 intervening months of failed diagnosis and lack of treatment allowed the cancer to progress from stage I to stage IV and thereby doomed the man.
The medical malpractice defendants had offered a minimal amount to settle the plaintiffs’ claim before trial. The primary care physician reportedly has only a $1 million limit on his medical malpractice insurance policy. The $3.75 million verdict included $200,000.00 in past medical expenses with the balance awarded to the surviving family members for their non-economic damages. The total award for non-economic damages, however, is subject to substantial reduction due to Maryland’s cap (limit) on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.
The Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit was filed on August 8, 2012 and the jury trial began on November 18, 2013. The 74-year-old man and his family were Chinese, as was the defendant primary care physician, which required a Chinese (Mandarin) interpreter during trial.
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