A Baltimore County jury has awarded nearly $596,000 to the family of a Mt. Airy man who died of colon cancer after his doctor failed to follow-up on an unexplained case of anemia, which the family claims should have led to an earlier cancer diagnosis.
The jury deliberated for seven-and-a-half hours before reaching a verdict last week in favor of the estate of Wesley Nelson and against against Nagji J. Sureja, Nelson’s primary physician. Other physicians named in the lawsuit were dismissed prior to the eight-day trial.
The jury awarded $420,000 in noneconomic damages, which is not affected by Maryland’s cap, and $176,000 in economic damages.
“We’re very pleased on behalf of Carol Nelson, the widow, and her two adult daughters,” said James D. Cardea of Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A. in Baltimore, who tried the case with Scott P. Kurlander.
Nelson died in 2014 at age 55, about 15 months after he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, Cardea said.
Catherine W. Steiner, Sureja’s lawyer, said Tuesday her client has not decided on an appeal because he is waiting to see if the verdict amount will be offset, since the other defendants settled before trial. Steiner is a member of Pessin Katz Law P.A. in Towson.
Nelson went to a gastroenterologist in September 2006 after complaining of irregular bowel movements and blood in his stool, according to the complaint, filed in December 2014. Nelson underwent a colonoscopy that showed moderate internal and external hemorrhoids but was otherwise deemed normal, according to the complaint, and the doctor recommended Nelson get another colonoscopy in eight years.
In 2011, Nelson met with Sureja to get clearance for a hernia repair. Blood work done at that appointment showed Nelson was anemic, the lawsuit states. Nelson’s family alleged Sureja violated her standard of care by “ignoring the anemia and not following up in any manner whatsoever.”
At Nelson’s next colonoscopy, in 2012, another doctor “negligently missed an obvious colon cancer,” according to the complaint. Blood work done before that procedure also showed Nelson was anemic, according to the complaint.
In 2013, Nelson saw Sureja because he was lethargic and experiencing shortness of breath, the lawsuit states. A subsequent blood test again showed signs of anemia, the lawsuit states. He was again referred to a gastroenterologist and underwent another colonoscopy, where a small mass was found, the lawsuit states. A biopsy revealed it was a malignant tumor, and a subsequent CT scan showed multiple lesions in the liver, the lawsuit states.
“Had the Defendant (Sureja) acted in accordance with the standards of care and determined the etiology of the anemia to be intestinal bleeding, an early malignancy of the colon would have been found which was responsible for the bleeding,” the lawsuit states.
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Nelson, et al v. Hutcheon, et al
Court: Baltimore County Circuit
Case No.: 03C14013075
Judge: John J. Nagle III
Proceeding: Jury trial
Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff, $420,000 in noneconomic damages and $176,000 in economic damages
Incident: 2006 to 2014
Suit filed: December 4, 2014
Verdict: Oct. 5, 2017
Plaintiff’s Attorney: James D. Cardea and Scott P. Kurlander of Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A. in Baltimore
Defendant’s Attorney: Catherine Steiner of Pessin Katz Law, P.A. in Towson
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