O'Brien and Ryan, LLP - Attorneys at Law

Defense Verdict in Favor of Internist in Failure to Diagnose and Treat Lung Cancer Case

Dan Ryan received a defense verdict in a case in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in which the Plaintiff, the estate of a deceased patient, alleged that an Internist failed to diagnose and treat the patient's lung cancer. The patient ultimately died from stage three lung cancer. The Plaintiff asserted that the Internist should have ordered follow-up studies as a result of abnormalities suggested on a July 1999 chest x-ray. According to Plaintiff's expert, if the physician would have performed timely follow-up studies, the patient's lymph node involvement would not have been as extensive and he would have had a better chance of prolonged survival.

On June 14, 1999, the patient, a 53-year-old male, presented to his Internist's office after an illness and complained that he was light-headed, had cramping and diarrhea and had a temperature of 102 degrees, The patient denied any dyspnea on exertion or hemoptysis. The patient's history was significant for cigarette smoking and interstitial lung infiltrates but indicated to the Internist that he had stopped smoking in 1995. The Internist had the impression that the patient had an upper respiratory infection that was probably viral in nature. He ordered a chest x-ray and blood work. The blood work was normal. The chest x-ray, performed on July 8, 1999, revealed a patchy infiltrate in the right lower lobe, which the Internist felt was consistent with the patient's symptoms.

On July 20, 1999, the patient returned for a follow-up visit. He did not have any shortness of breath, sputum or cough. His weight was stable and his lungs were clear. At the next office visit on November 16, 1999, the patient complained of hemoptysis. A chest x-ray was immediately ordered, which revealed a right hilar mass with post-obstructive atelectasis and infiltrate, most suspicious for carcinoma. The Internist promptly referred his patient to a pulmonary specialist. A non-small cell carcinoma of the lungs was eventually diagnosed with positive lymph nodes. Despite treatment and due to the virulent nature of the tumor and the significant node involvement, the patient died less than one year later, in October of 2000.

After a six-day trial and 2 ½ days of jury deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous verdict finding that the Internist was not negligent in their treatment of his patient.

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