In order to succeed in a negligence lawsuit, a plaintiff must not only prove that the defendant breached a duty of care but also prove that the defendant’s breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland addressed the issue of causation in a recent medical malpractice action, Hardy v. Advanced Radiology, P.A. (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Aug. 17, 2016). Although the court accepted that the doctor breached the standard of care, it ultimately held that the plaintiff failed to establish the necessary causal link between the doctor’s breach and the plaintiff’s injury.
In Hardy, the plaintiff underwent a CT scan of his abdomen in February 2006. The defendant, a radiologist, interpreted the scan as showing nothing abnormal. The plaintiff sought a second opinion from another hospital 19 days later. Two different radiologists detected a mass, and a surgical consult was ordered. The surgeon reviewed the scan and reported that it looked benign, recommending follow-up CT scans. For the next several years, follow-up CT scans were performed annually. In December 2011, the plaintiff underwent a sixth CT scan, showing that the mass had doubled in size, and a biopsy of the mass led to a diagnosis as a cancerous tumor. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in January 2013 against his doctors, including the defendant who interpreted his first CT scan.
At trial, the plaintiff’s experts testified that the defendant had breached the medical standard of care by failing to identify the mass in the plaintiff’s abdomen. At the close of evidence, the defendant moved for judgment, arguing that the plaintiff failed to prove that the defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury. The trial court denied the defendant’s motions. The jury found the defendant negligent and awarded $20,635 in damages. On appeal, the defendant again argued that the plaintiff failed to establish the element of causation.