Woman awarded $8 million in misdiagnosis suit

Jury says doctor gave substandard care to Pikesville cancer patient

October 04, 2002|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County jury awarded yesterday what might be one of the state's largest verdict in a medical misdiagnosis lawsuit to a Pikesville woman who said her doctor ignored a benign tumor that turned cancerous and spread throughout her skull.

After an eight-day trial and an afternoon and morning of deliberations, the jury awarded $8 million to Lana Carey, 59, saying that Tahoora Kawaja, a doctor with Charm City Medical Associates in Baltimore, "breached the standard of care in her treatment" of the patient and was responsible for Carey's suffering.

Carey could collect between $1 million and $2 million of that verdict because of Maryland laws limiting damages for pain and suffering.

"I really had faith that we would win the case," Carey said from her home last night. "But I have been so tired and drained that I was left, and still am, feeling kind of numb. I need a few days rest."

Kawaja did not return telephone calls last night. In court, she testified that Carey had not complained regularly about a nasal obstruction.

"I think the facts and the evidence clearly showed that my client met the standard of care," said her lawyer, Robert W. Goodson of Washington. "And we are greatly disappointed by the jury's verdict."

Carey told jurors that she complained to Kawaja about the chronic obstruction during appointments in 1996 and 1997.

She said Kawaja told her she had an inflamed mucus membrane and did not refer her to a specialist until 1998, when the tumor was growing out of her left nostril.

By then it was too late for simple surgery to remove the growth, according to court papers.

Since early 1999, Carey has lived a constant schedule of doctors appointments and surgeries, she said. Court papers show that one surgery took seven hours. Another removed part of her palate, and another removed facial bones.

In April, doctors removed her left eye. She wears a large patch over the left side of her face.

"I feel like a monster," she told the jury.

She is undergoing chemotherapy treatments, and her attorney said doctors have made it clear that she will never work again.

"I will tell you that that woman has gone through a living hell and faces additional problems in the future," Marvin Ellin said. He said his client is terrified at the prospect of losing her right eye and that doctors have said the cancer could return.

He also said his client is permanently disabled. Before the cancer, she was a secretary at the Rosewood Center, a state facility for people with mental retardation. Thomas Carey, her husband, is a carpenter.

Now, Carey said, her husband is also her caregiver. He takes her to her appointments and does the cooking, the cleaning, the housework.

Last night, she said, they were both exhausted from the trial.

"I didn't realize what a tough process it was going to be," she said. " I believe with my heart and soul that I was right. And I fight for what I believe in."

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