Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice Case Based on Failure to Diagnose Lung Cancer Should Have Gone to the Jury, According to South Carolina Court of Appeals

Legal News Gavel

South Carolina medical malpractice cases can arise in a number of contexts, including not only obvious mistakes, such as leaving an instrument inside a patient’s body or surgically removing the wrong organ, but also more complicated situations, such as a failure to make a timely diagnosis of lung cancer.

While the physician may not have caused the underlying medical condition (such as cancer), if it can be said that his or her failure to make a diagnosis in accordance with the applicable standard of care caused ultimate harm to a patient, there is a possibility that a medical malpractice claim may lie against the doctor.

Of course, each case is fact-specific, and there must be competent evidence from expert witnesses – other doctors – to explain to the jury exactly what should have happened, what went wrong, and how the error ultimately affected the patient. Without expert testimony, most medical malpractice cases fail regardless of how seriously the patient was injured (or even if he or she passed away due to the alleged mistake).

Facts of the Case

In a recent case under consideration by the South Carolina Court of Appeals, the plaintiff was a woman who brought a medical malpractice lawsuit in the Spartanburg County Circuit Court, asserting that the defendant medical providers’ negligence caused her father’s death. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants should have discovered her father’s lung cancer earlier. The trial court directed a verdict for the defendants.

Decision of the Court

The appellate court reversed, first reiterating that, in order to prove a case of medical malpractice under South Carolina law, a plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there was a doctor-patient relationship between the parties, that there were certain recognized and generally accepted standards that applied to the patient’s care, that the defendant deviated from those standards of care, that this deviation was the proximate cause of harm to the patient, and that the patient suffered an actual injury due to the defendant’s conduct.

Since the appellate court found that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to send the case to the jury for a consideration of the issues, it held that it was an error for the trial court to direct a verdict for the defendants. In particular, the reviewing court opined that the plaintiff’s expert provided a basis by which the jury could have found that the cancer that was originally in the decedent’s right lung in early 2010 could have metastasized to his left lung, causing his death in 2012.

An Experienced South Carolina Medical Negligence Attorney Here to Help

To schedule an appointment to discuss your case with a seasoned South Carolina medical malpractice lawyer, call the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices at 864-582-5118. For your convenience, we have offices in both Spartanburg and Greenville. We serve clients throughout the state, handling many different types of personal injury and wrongful death cases, including workers’ compensation, car accidents, nursing home neglect, product liability, and premises liability cases.

Related Blog Posts:

South Carolina Appeals Court Finds That Woman’s Medical Malpractice Case is Barred by “the Law of the Case” Doctrine, Due to Previous Litigation

South Carolina Court Rejects “First Diagnosis Rule” in Measuring Medical Malpractice Statute of Repose