Seven-figure recovery for Washington County man whose 67-year-old wife died due to a delay in diagnosing lung cancer. This woman, who was not a smoker, had a long-standing inflammatory condition in her lungs known as Sarcoidosis. Therefore, when some abnormal growths/masses showed up on her chest x-ray, the doctor believed that it was simply an extension of her long-standing Sarcoidosis and, therefore, no biopsy of the mass was done. Some six years went by before the lung cancer was diagnosed, but by that time it had metastasized to other parts in the body and the condition was not curable.
Lung cancer remains one of the most widespread cancers in the United States. With the sophistication and improvement in CT scans, suspicious lung nodules are now able to be seen at a much smaller size than 10-15 years ago. The debate in many lung cancer cases, however, is whether each one of those nodules requires further investigation. Usually, the next step after a CT scan is to perform a PET scan. This is a special test which measures the "uptake" of a special solution that is injected as part of the test, the theory being that cancer tissue tends to be very "hungry" for this liquid and, therefore, the uptake should be high if the nodule is cancerous. If the PET scan offers additional reasons for suspicion, the next step in investigating a pulmonary nodule is usually to perform a biopsy.
In our case, a PET scan was done, but the results were not highly suspicious and, again, the doctor felt that a biopsy was not necessary because he believed that the patient was just experiencing expansion of her Sarcoidosis. Sadly, that turned out not to be the case. It was our contention that it was inappropriate for the doctor to just assume that the nodule was an extension of the Sarcoidosis, and a biopsy should have been done to be certain.
The husband and wife in this case had been together for over 50 years going all the way back to high school. Therefore, there was a significant claim for loss of society and companionship, i.e., what the law refers to as "loss of consortium." In fact, this made up the bulk of the damage claim in the case. In addition to the husband, the wife left behind two adult daughters with whom she was very, very close.