Maryland Appeals Court Reinstates Jury Verdict in Favor of the Plaintiffs in Medical Negligence Case

Some Maryland medical malpractice cases may arise out of a misdiagnosed or undiagnosed condition by a health care practitioner.  In a November 23, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a case brought by the personal estate of a cancer patient and her family against the radiologist who treated her.  The matter was on appeal after the trial court entered judgment in favor of the defendant despite the jury’s verdict for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs in the case alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to diagnose the decedent’s breast cancer.  In 2011, the decedent had received a routine breast cancer examination from the defendants, who found no abnormalities.  Six months later, the decedent discovered a lump in her right breast and returned to the defendants’ practice in May of 2012.  After performing a mammogram, the defendants concluded that the lump was benign.

Fifteen months later, the decedent returned for a follow-up examination and mammogram, which showed an abnormality in her right breast.  The decedent underwent a biopsy a month later, which revealed that she had Stage III breast cancer.  Despite two years of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, the cancer spread.  The decedent died in February of 2016 at the age of 56.

The case was tried over ten days before a jury, which found in favor of the plaintiffs.  The jury awarded almost 2.6 million dollars in non-economic damages to the plaintiffs.  Thereafter, the defendants moved for judgment, notwithstanding the verdict.  The trial court granted the motion and reversed the verdict, ruling that the plaintiff’s medical expert failed to establish that the defendants’ negligence was the proximate cause of the decedent’s death.  The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the higher court.

On appeal, the court explained that the trial judge should have focused on whether the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that the defendants’ alleged failure to diagnose the decedent’s cancer was a proximate cause of her death.  Proximate cause means that the plaintiffs must prove with reasonable certainty, or that it is more likely than not, that the defendants’ negligence was the cause of the decedent’s death.

The appeals court pointed to the testimony of the plaintiffs’ medical expert, who stated that, had the defendants performed a biopsy of the lump in May of 2012, it would have revealed that the decedent had cancer.  The court concluded that the jury could have logically inferred from that testimony that the decedent had an 80% chance of survival if the defendants had caught the cancer in May of 2012.  As such, the appeals court reversed the trial court’s decision and reinstated the verdict and award in favor of the plaintiffs.

The accident lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. can provide compassionate legal advice following a personal injury or the death of a loved one.  We represent plaintiffs in medical malpractice actions, motor vehicle accident claims, slip and fall premises liability cases, and many other personal injury lawsuits arising out of negligence.  Request a free consultation to discuss your case with a knowledgeable attorney by calling Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or submitting our contact form online.

Contact Information