Carroll jury awards Westminster woman $300,000 in cancer suit

October 20, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County jury has awarded $300,000 to a Westminster woman after deciding that her oral surgeon, an Arbutus-based laboratory and its pathologist failed to diagnose her oral cancer properly more than four years ago.

The jurors found Friday that the co-defendants -- Maryland Medical Laboratory Inc., now known as Quest Diagnostics Inc.; its pathologist Martin Lunin; and Westminster oral surgeon Donald B. Lurie -- breached the standard of care in their treatment of Nancy Perkins, 43.

The jurors found Dr. Renzo Ricci of Finksburg, who approved Perkins' visit to an oral surgeon, not negligent in his treatment of the woman, who had a tumorous lesion about a centimeter wide removed from her tongue in March 1993 after visiting Lurie.

The excised tissue was sent to the laboratory, where Lunin examined oral pathology slides and noted a precancerous condition.

Neither Lunin nor Lurie, who received a copy of the lab results, ordered additional testing to look for carcinoma, or cancerous tumors, said Daniel Clements, a Baltimore attorney representing Perkins and her husband, David.

Five months later, Perkins had tumorous tissue 3 centimeters wide where the original tissue had been removed. She had further surgery to remove the cancerous tumor and radiation therapy to help prevent its return.

Gary Samuels, vice president of corporate communications for Quest Diagnostics, said yesterday that company officials were disappointed with the verdict because "no one contested our pathologist's interpretation of the slides."

Samuels said the decision would be studied in more depth before a decision was made on whether to appeal.

According to court documents, lawyers for Quest, Lunin and Lurie contended that the five-month delay in diagnosis did not affect or change the treatment that Perkins received. In either case, they said, further surgery would have been required.

Clements said the jurors believed his expert witnesses, who said Perkins would not have needed radiation therapy if surgery had been performed as soon as the precancerous condition was known.

The jury deliberated about eight hours on the ninth day of the trial in Carroll County Circuit Court before returning its verdict. Perkins was awarded $10,000 for past medical expenses, $4,200 for past loss of earnings and $250,800 for noneconomic damages.

David and Nancy Perkins were awarded $35,000 for damage to their marital relationship.

Pub Date: 10/20/98

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