Failure to Diagnose and Treat Lung Cancer: $1.5M Settlement

2020 Medical Malpractice Settlement Report
By Attorney Adam R. Satin
Wrongful Death / Cancer Diagnosis Delay
Middlesex County Superior Court, Lowell, Massachusetts

Misread chest x-ray leads to delay in diagnosis of lung cancer and premature death

This wrongful death medical malpractice claim involved a delay in diagnosis of lung cancer. The decedent had smoked a pack of cigarettes per day for 45 years. In 2011, she began developing acute shortness of breath at night. Her care providers felt that it was COPD. However, a chest x-ray demonstrated a small opacity in the right upper lobe which appeared to the radiologist to be chronic. Plaintiff’s counsel secured expert testimony that this imaging in fact revealed a right upper lobe nodular infiltrate approximately 2 cm in size which was irregular, focal and concerning for a mass, requiring follow up in 1 to 2 months to confirm resolution and, upon additional imaging without resolution, recommendation for CT scan and biopsy would be made.

See related lung cancer settlements:
$1.2 Million: Radiologist's failure to identify and report lung mass delayed diagnosis and treament of women's stage IV lung cancer

$1 Million: PCP's failure to follow up on radiologist's recommendations denied patient earlier treatment that would have prolonged patient’s life

Missed cancer xray photoA missed cancer case is often referred to as a "failure to diagnose" or a "delay in diagnosis" of cancer, and is one of the most common reasons patients file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

See also: How To Determine Medical Malpractice in Cancer Cases.

The decedent continued to be seen regularly for her COPD. (Tab A) At no time from that imaging in 2011 to December 2014 was a chest CT scan obtained. In April 2012, the decedent had increased shortness of breath with exertion, and a co-defendant obtained pulmonary function tests, but did not order follow up imaging.

In December 2012, the decedent reported increased difficulty breathing. A chest x-ray was done. The radiologist interpreted the chest x-ray and reported that the imaging showed stable chronic interstitial changes with no acute pulmonary disease. (A69, A74) However, plaintiff’s expert would opine that this chest x-ray demonstrated an irregular infiltrate or mass in the right upper lobe that had increased in size since the 2011 study and required further evaluation with CT scan because it did not demonstrate “stable chronic changes.”

The decedent continued to follow up with her pulmonologist for her moderate COPD and was seen in February, May and August of 2013, and January 2014. (A75-77, A83) The pulmonologist failed to order further imaging despite radiographic abnormalities and symptoms.

In December 2014, the decedent experienced increasing shortness of breath. A chest film obtained for dyspnea dated 12/15/14 revealed the right upper lobe lesion which was followed up by a chest CT scan. Findings on the chest CT scan included a 4.7 x 3.2 cm mass, which was concerning for malignancy. The decedent underwent a bronchoscopy with biopsy. Pathology was positive for adenocarcinoma. The cancer had, by that point, metastasized from the lung to the lymph nodes. She died on 10/1/15 from her lung cancer.

The case was settled for $1,500,000.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys Andrew C. Meyer Jr. and Adam R. Satin represented the plaintiff in this lawsuit.

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