Liver Cancer Diagnosis Delay: $5 Million Jury Verdict

2023 Medical Malpractice Trial Report
Middlesex Superior Court
By Robert M. Higgins, attorney for the plaintiffs

Medical malpractice lawsuit claims heptologist's failure to properly diagnose and treat liver cancer leads to death of 65-year-old man

Case background

The plaintiff was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in the 1990’s and Cirrhosis of his liver in 2009. All the time he was cared for by the defendant transplant hepatologist, Dr. Fredreric Gordon at Lahey Clinic.

Monitoring liver lesion

Once the plaintiff was diagnosed with cirrhosis, Dr. Gordon ordered an MRI in early 2010 to check for liver masses as patients with cirrhosis are at increased risk for developing liver cancer. The first MRI showed a liver lesion that was 1.6 x 2.0 cm. A follow up MRI was performed 4 months later which confirmed the lesion was real, had not grown in the last 4 months and was not cancer at that point.   

Radiologist recommends follow up MRI

In October 2011 the patient had another MRI which again showed the lesion and showed slight growth. The radiologist noted in his report that he wanted to look at the lesion again in 3-6 months with a repeat MRI. Dr. Gordon decided to ignore the radiologist’s recommendation and ordered an ultrasound for 6 months later.

Heptologist orders ultrasound

The ultrasound was done in June of 2012 and did not show the lesion at all. Instead of recognizing that the ultrasound was not capable of picking up the lesion, Dr. Gordon told his patient that everything looked good.

Advanced liver cancer confirmed

In February 2013 the plaintiff underwent another MRI. It showed the lesion increased in size and was noted to be concerning for liver cancer. He had a biopsy that confirmed the diagnosis of cancer. It was also found to have spread his liver cancer to his spine, pelvis and bones in his legs. He died of his liver cancer in April 2014.

Lawsuit claims ultrasound inappropriate for monitoring liver lesion

The plaintiff presented evidence at trial from a gastroenterologist expert who testified that it was inappropriate for Dr. Gordon to use ultrasound to follow the patient's liver lesion. He testified that had he used MRI as recommended by the radiologist and required by the standard of care, the cancer would have been diagnosed earlier and he would have survived.

The defendant offered expert testimony from a gastroenterologist expert who opined that ultrasound was a reasonable way to monitor the lesion and not a violation of the standard of care.

Jury finds in favor of the plaintiff

After a 7-day trial, the jury deliberated for 7 hours and returned a verdict of $2,750,000. With statutory interest the judgment was $5,000,000.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys Robert M. Higgins, Andrew Miller, and Andrew C. Meyer, Jr. represented the plaintiff in this lawsuit.

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