A Charleston County jury has awarded a near $7 million verdict to a terminal breast cancer patient and her husband after a misdiagnosis from a doctor years earlier led the woman to believe that her condition was benign and no further testing was necessary.
The woman’s doctor failed to adhere to a “degree of care and skill ordinarily exercised by medical care providers,” the medical malpractice suit stated. As a result, her cancer was allowed to advance without treatment, resulting in a terminal prognosis, according to the court document.
The woman, 47-year-old Leanna Loud, continues to serve as a nurse at Medical University Hospital and member of the Air Force Reserve in spite of her condition, her attorney John Eric Fulda said in an interview. She’s a wife and mother of three, he said.
Dr. Jeffrey Short and Charleston Radiologists are listed as defendants in her case. Short could not be reached for comment Friday or Saturday. Attorneys Molly Hood Craig and Brian Johnson, who represented the defendants, did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails seeking comment.
Loud underwent mammography screenings in 2003 at the age of 35 and again in 2008 at 39. The American Cancer Society currently recommends that women begin yearly mammograms at age 45.
“She wanted to be proactive about her health,” Fulda stressed.
Her 2008 screening showed new calcifications that weren’t evident five years earlier, court records state.
After reviewing the screening, Short rated her condition as benign with no additional studies, diagnostic testing or follow-up appointments required.
Loud was diagnosed with Stage III Invasive Duct Carcinoma roughly two years later. By 2013, bone metastasis was apparent in her sternum, spine and hips. The condition will never go away, Fulda said, leaving her with few treatment options.
“Due to the delayed diagnosis of Mrs. Loud’s breast cancer and despite aggressive therapy and treatment, Mrs. Loud’s breast cancer was allowed to progress and she has been left with a probable terminal diagnosis,” the court document stated.
Experts testified that had Loud received additional testing and her cancer been diagnosed earlier, her chances of survival likely would have been between 85 and 100 percent, Fulda said.
A jury heard five days of testimony from expert witnesses over the course of a 7-day trial, including from medical professionals who agreed that further testing should have been completed before a judgment was made on Loud’s condition, Fulda said. The jury deliberated for three hours before returning a verdict Wednesday in Loud’s favor.
A $6.9 million verdict was announced, according to court documents, with $6.2 million awarded to Loud. An additional $700,000 was awarded to Loud’s husband to compensate for the “loss of aid, comfort, consortium, society and damage to the marital relationship with his wife” that he’s suffered, according to court records.
“It’s about accountability and taking responsibility for your actions,” Fulda said of the verdict. “I’m not saying that Dr. Short’s a bad person, but when you commit malpractice, you ought to be held responsible for it.”