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$1.8M Awarded in Virginia Medical Malpractice Cancer Case

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Finding for the victim in a medical malpractice case, a jury in Arlington County, Virginia awarded $1,894,037 in May, 2010. The medical negligence claim revolved around the failure of a doctor to detect the metastasis of cancer when reviewing CT scan of the man's lungs. 

The 70-year-old man with a history of melanoma had been ordered by his dermatologist to have regular lung CT scans in order to detect the spread of cancer before it progressed too far to treat effectively. The radiologist noticed a nodule on the CT scan that had changed in size and character from a previous CT scan done in 2003, but determined it represented plaque from asbestos exposure and not a malignancy. By the time lung cancer was diagnosed, from a 2008 CT scan, the cancer had progressed from Stage I to Stage III-A and the chance of cure decreased from 80-90% to 20%. 

The doctor's attorneys presented two arguments in the medical malpractice case, supported by expert witnesses. First, that the radiologist's interpretation of the CT scan fell within the medical standard of care. Second, doubling time analysis from the 2008 CT scan back to the 2006 CT scan indicates there would already have been cancer cells in the lymph nodes. In other words, the chance for a cure had not significantly increased with the delay of a cancer diagnosis, the doctor's lawyers argued. 

The jury agreed with the victim's attorneys that the doctor was guilty of medical malpractice. Lack of a prompt diagnosis of cancer drastically reduced their client's life expectancy and quality of life due to lung removal and chemotherapy. The award was reduced to the Virginia (VA) statutory cap of $1,850,000. 

Regardless of whether the medical error occurs in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Roanoke or Arlington, the same Virginia "cap" on medical malpractice applies with regard to VA state court actions.

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