ROCKVILLE, MD -A jury in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, MD returned a $3.75 million verdict for the family of a man who died after his lung cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment was delayed by his primary care physician for more than a year-and-a-half.
The award was obtained by Silver Spring-based Goldberg Finnegan & Mester through partners Christian Mester, Jean Jones and Maria Dawson.
The case involved 74-year-old Zhiguang Dou of Gaithersburg, who sought treatment from Century Medicine, Inc. of Rockville and its owner, Dr. Xiao Ming Zhou for a cough in September 2009. Dr. Zhou ordered a chest x-ray followed by a subsequent CT scan which showed a consolidation in the right upper lobe of the lung, which is an abnormal and significant finding. While expert testimony at trial concluded that the consolidation reported on the CT scan needed to be followed up on to rule out cancer, Dr. Zhou failed to properly appreciate the nature of those findings and failed to order further testing that would have likely yielded a positive diagnosis of cancer. Mr. Dou returned multiple times to Dr. Zhou over the next 18 months for various ailments, and at no time did Dr. Zhou suspect cancer or order a repeat CT scan to determine whether the consolidation went away.
Twenty months after his CT Scan, Dr. Zhou finally ordered a second CT scan, by which time the patient's lung cancer had advanced from Stage I to Stage IV. Mr. Dou died nine months later.
"Everyone in that courtroom agreed that a consolidation is abnormal and concerning," said Mester. "While a consolidation can be due to many things - pneumonia, scarring, tuberculosis or lung cancer - Dr. Zhou merely assumed it was not cancer. He never repeated the CT Scan in an appropriate period of time to determine whether or not the consolidation resolved, and instead waited 20 months before he ultimately diagnosed the patient with cancer. By that time, it was far too late, and a formerly very active man became paralyzed just two days after the late diagnosis when the cancer caused a fracture on his spine. This jury understood that the CT scan reported an abnormal finding and no matter what excuses Dr. Zhou put forth, the jury concluded that Dr. Zhou acted unreasonably by failing to follow up on that abnormal finding."
The verdict was rendered on behalf of Ms. Dou's widow Guilan Liu, sons Jinhui Dou and Jinchao Dou and daughter Lanying Feng.
"This was clearly a case of misdiagnosis," said attorney Jean Jones who, like her colleague Maria Dawson, were both registered nurses before obtaining their legal degrees. "Had Dr. Zhou properly acted upon the significance of the original CT Scan findings in 2009, and ordered the appropriate follow-up studies, the lung cancer would have been diagnosed and treated at an earlier stage." Dawson added, "By not treating at that earlier stage, Dr. Zhou took away all hope for Mr. Dou and guaranteed him a painful and certain death. This jury understood that."
For the family, the verdict is bittersweet. "Nobody should have to endure the pain my father went through," said son Jinhui Dou. "This ordeal took a terrible toll on our family, especially our mother. We miss our father and his spirit and what pains us the most is that this loss was completely avoidable. Had Dr. Zhou rendered the proper diagnosis in 2009 when he had the abnormal test results, we know, and this jury agreed with its verdict, that our father would still be with us today."
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About Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester, LLC
The medical negligence department at Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester, LLC, concentrates in prosecuting complex medical negligence cases. The firm also represents plaintiffs in personal injury matters and pharmaceutical litigation. The firm's main office is located in Silver Spring, Maryland, with another office in Reisterstown, Maryland. For additional information visit www.gfmjustice.com.