In a medical malpractice verdict, a Howard County jury awarded more than $5 million to a woman who suffered lifelong pancreatic damage after receiving a diagnostic procedure in 2014.
Jurors granted the patient, Karen Cain, just over $1 million for past medical expenses, $1 million for lost wages, $72,000 for future medical expenses and $3 million for noneconomic damages — though that figure was reduced to $740,000 due to Maryland’s cap on noneconomic damages in health care malpractice cases.
“We feel validated by the jury’s verdict, which was well reasoned,” said Ryan S. Perlin, who represented Cain. “We’re grateful to the jurors who looked at a lot of medical literature in this case and really dug into the statistics related to this procedure.”
Cain received the procedure — Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP — from Dr. Mukul Khandelwal, a gastroenterologist with Gastro Associates, in April 2014. Cain was experiencing abdominal pain and had a family history of pancreatic cancer, according to the complaint.
Khandelwal recommended an ERCP, which uses a scope inserted through the mouth to diagnose and treat ailments in the liver, pancreas and other parts of the digestive system. Soon after the procedure, Cain returned to the hospital with severe abdominal pain and was diagnosed with post-ERCP pancreatitis, according to the complaint.
According to Perlin, Cain remained in the hospital for nearly a year. Her pancreas was seriously damaged when enzymes typically used in digestion became trapped inside the organ, Perlin said.
Cain must now take a series of pills each time she eats to simulate enzymes that will break down her food, he said.
Perlin said the case centered on informed consent. Cain was never told that she was at heightened risk of developing pancreatitis from the ERCP because of several factors, including her age and gender, Perlin said.
The procedure also had little chance of benefiting Cain, according to Perlin.
“I think ultimately this jury verdict demonstrates that physicians have a responsibility to their patients to give them all of the information they need to make intelligent and informed decisions about their medical care,” he said.
The attorney for Khandelwal, David A. Roling, said the doctor respected the verdict but was disappointed because “he felt what he had done for this patient was the correct course, but she unfortunately suffered from the known complication.”
He said the biggest problem facing the defense was that Cain was a very sympathetic plaintiff who had suffered through no fault of her own.
“Not one expert said my client did anything wrong during the procedure,” Roling said. “We are chalking this up as a situation where the jury just wasn’t going to turn down this woman.”