Roanoke City jury renders unanimous verdict of $1.5 million for victim of radiology malpractice

Gentry Locke for the Plaintiff

Roanoke City Circuit Court

There are two important rules in the practice of radiology: (1) a radiologist must communicate all pertinent anatomy and diagnoses on imaging studies; and (2) a radiologist must clearly and effectively communicate, leaving no room for misunderstandings by clinicians. If a radiologist does not do both of these things, patients will suffer misdiagnoses that will cause serious injury and/or death.

On August 16, 2016 our client presented to the LewisGale Medical Center Emergency Department with abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting after having undergone a colonoscopy the day before. Our client’s clinicians were worried that he may have a perforation of his bowel or appendicitis, among other things. A CT scan of the abdomen was performed. The CT scan was interpreted by a radiologist of the defendant (Radiology Associates of Roanoke, P.C.), who had only been practicing for two weeks since completion of his training. The radiologist interpreted the CT scan as showing no surgical emergency, although he was concerned that our client could have appendicitis. However, the radiologist never informed the clinicians of his concern of appendicitis, and he never mentioned our client’s appendix in his report. In the medical arena, not mentioning a piece of anatomy means that the anatomy is normal. As a result, our client’s clinicians ruled out any surgical emergency, such as appendicitis, and discharged him home.

Two days later, on August 18, 2016, our client returned to the LewisGale Medical Center Emergency Department in a greatly deteriorated condition. Another CT scan was performed and correctly interpreted by a different radiologist as showing a ruptured appendicitis. Our client’s ruptured appendicitis caused a severe infection known as sepsis (as a result of fecal material coming out of his ruptured appendix into his abdominal cavity), which resulted in him going into ventilator dependent respiratory failure, and suffering brain strokes, clots in his legs and lungs, damage to his kidneys, and permanent communication problems.

On that same day our client returned to the hospital with a ruptured appendicitis, the radiologist’s senior radiology partner confronted the radiologist about his interpretation of the August 16 CT scan. The senior radiology partner informed the radiologist that he had missed our client’s appendicitis on the August 16 CT scan and did not communicate the appendicitis to the clinicians, thereby causing a misdiagnosis.

Expert radiologists from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the University of Maryland concluded that the radiologist had misinterpreted and miscommunicated the results of the August 16, 2016 CT scan, thereby causing a two-day delay during which our client’s appendix ruptured, causing fecal material to fill his abdominal cavity. Additional expert witnesses in the specialties of general surgeon, surgical oncology, family medicine, emergency room medicine, and neurology from the Roanoke Valley, George Washington University, and Harvard University concluded that our client’s ruptured appendicitis caused his brain strokes, clots in his legs and lungs, damage to his kidneys, and permanent communication problems. If the radiologist had correctly interpreted and communicated the results of the August 16, 2016 CT scan, our client’s appendicitis would have been successfully treated before it ruptured, thereby avoiding his severe and permanent injuries.

After hearing evidence for five days from our client and the defendant and being instructed as to the law of the Commonwealth of Virginia by the Judge, a Roanoke City jury comprised of seven individuals unanimously found that the radiologist had committed malpractice, and that his malpractice caused our client’s severe and permanent injuries. The jury rendered a verdict for our client totaling $1.5 million for his past, present and future physical pain, mental suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, inconvenience, and medical expenses. The jury verdict not only compensated our client for his past, present and future harms and losses, but the verdict will also serve as a deterrent so that other patients and their families in our community will not be victims of malpractice.

Anthony “Tony” Russell and Charlie Calton of Gentry Locke were honored to have represented our client and our community in this matter.

Read the article published by The Roanoke Times here.

Status of the case:

Jury verdict in favor of our client for $1.5M.

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