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Frederick jury awards $10M for man’s death from colon cancer after repeat doctor visits

A Frederick County jury awarded nearly $10 million last month to the family of a man who died of colon cancer in his 40s after repeatedly seeking medical care for abdominal pain.

The patient, Jason S. Turner, died in June 2019 after being diagnosed in 2017 with stage 3 colon cancer that eventually metastasized to his liver, lungs and bones.

Turner had visited Frederick Primary Care Associates with abdominal pain and other symptoms five times in the two years before his diagnosis, according to the complaint filed in his family’s lawsuit.

Jurors awarded a total of $9.9 million to Turner’s surviving family, including his young son, wife and parents. The award included $469,000 for past medical bills, $815,000 for loss of support and $8 million in noneconomic damages to Turner’s family.

That number will be reduced substantially by the state’s cap on noneconomic damages, though the amount of the final verdict is still in dispute.

“This was just a very deserving family and a very unfortunate situation,” said Ben Salsbury, who represented Turner’s family with Kevin Sullivan of Salsbury Sullivan, LLC.

“Mr. Turner was by all accounts just a great guy,” Salsbury said.

Turner worked as a photojournalist at The Journal in Martinsburg, West Virginia, before working as the director of photography at RidgeRunner Publishing in Hagerstown and later forming a commercial photography business with his twin brother, the Hagerstown Herald Mail reported after his death. Turner was 48 when he died.

He sought medical care for abdominal pain repeatedly beginning in 2015, when he first visited Frederick Primary Care Associates, according to the complaint. He was seen by a physician’s assistant who diagnosed him with diverticulitis, or an inflammation in the digestive tract.

Turner returned to Frederick Primary Care Associates several times as he continued to experience abdominal pain and later discovered a lump in his abdomen. A colonoscopy was recommended but never performed, according to the complaint.

In November 2017, Turner was admitted to a hospital in Pennsylvania with severe abdominal pain. He received surgery and was soon diagnosed with adenocarcinoma. He received chemotherapy but the cancer ultimately spread throughout his body.

The complaint alleged that several members of the medical staff at Frederick Primary Care Associates were negligent in caring for Turner because they failed to order appropriate testing, failed to refer Turner to a specialist and failed to order imaging that could have caught the cancer sooner.

Lawyer Ed Goundry, who represented the defendants, said he has filed a post-trial motion and is considering an appeal. In a motion to reduce the jury verdict, Goundry argued that the total noneconomic damages should be reduced to less than $1 million, and that the total award should be reduced to about $2.7 million.

“We are very disappointed with the jury’s verdict,” Goundry said. “We had strong expert support for the care of Mr. Turner.”