In a case her attorneys noted was largely about “accountability and responsibility,” a South Carolina woman recently won a $6.9 million medical malpractice judgement against her radiologist. The case revolved around a missed abnormality on a mammogram which later developed into terminal cancer.
The plaintiff, Leanna Loud, received a mammogram in 2008 and at that time her condition was rated as benign and no follow-up was made. In 2010, she was diagnosed with an invasive cancer that by 2013 had metastasized and become essentially incurable. Now 47, she’s been given only a few more years to live.
During the trial, Loud’s attorneys relied on expert testimony to argue that if the mammogram had been correctly interpreted in 2008, the extent and severity of her condition would very likely have been prevented. Experts stated that immediate treatment would have given Loud an 85-100% chance of being cured.
The case was not simply about one mammogram being misread in isolation. Evidence was introduced to show that when compared to an earlier mammogram taken in 2003, the 2008 screening showed new calcifications which should have been investigated further. Loud’s lawyers argued that the 2008 abnormality was suspicious for cancer, and medical professionals testifying in the case agreed that additional testing should have been done before making a diagnosis.
Loud, who is a nurse at Medical University Hospital in Charleston, had been diligent about her health. She had her first mammogram when she was 35, earlier than the recommendation of most public health organizations. The American Cancer Society (ACS), for instance, used to urge mammograms beginning at age 40. They’ve recently changed that to age 45, with another every one to two years thereafter.
Breast cancer is a major illness in American women, with more than a quarter million new cases diagnosed last year. Forty thousand to 50,000 women will die from it each year. Prevention is extremely important in the fight against breast cancer. While rates of diagnosis have not greatly changed, data published by the ACS show that death rates have been steadily declining since 1989. They credit much of this to early detection, when the disease is more easily treated. This fact may have had important weight in Loud’s case.
Local observers noted that Charleston has not been known for favorable verdicts to plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases. Despite this, Loud’s victory was not a surprise to some, including the attorneys on both sides. Court documents indicate they had reached a $2 million settlement, but that some conditions of it were dependent upon the verdict. This was to the victim’s benefit, as South Carolina, like Indiana, has a statutory cap on medical malpractice damage verdict awards. State law limits non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering and emotional distress) to $1.05 million; economic damages (the cost of care, lost wages, etc.) have no fixed limit, but are restricted to calculable amounts.
Medical Malpractice Attorneys
The law firm of Wilson Kehoe Winingham has experience with medical malpractice law. If you or a loved one has been harmed through negligence or a preventable medical error, call us at 317-920-6400 for a free consultation to discuss your options. You can also fill out our online form to have someone from our office contact you.