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Jury returns defense verdict in favor of gastroenterologist

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//November 20, 2023

Jury returns defense verdict in favor of gastroenterologist

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//November 20, 2023//

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Type of action: Medical malpractice

Injuries alleged: Wrongful death

Court: Fairfax County Circuit Court

Case no.: 2020-2404

Byron Mitchell

Tried before: Jury

Name of judge or mediator: Judge Michael F. Devine

Date resolved: 8/2/2023

Demand: $1,500,000

Verdict or settlement: Verdict

Amount: $0 (defense)

Attorneys for defendant: Byron Mitchell and Jacob Pierce, Alexandria

Jacob Pierce

Description of case: The patient presented to the defendant gastroenterologist on Dec. 12, 2016, complaining of constipation. She had a longstanding history of irritable bowel syndrome, as well colon resection surgery years earlier for severe diverticulitis. She had a colonoscopy six years earlier, which was normal. The patient had no complaints of rectal pain, bleeding, etc. at the visit in question. The defendant examined her abdomen and found it soft and nontender. The defendant attributed her symptoms to her chronic IBS, prescribed Linzess, encouraged her to drink more water and eat more fiber and follow-up in 6-8 weeks, at which point they would discuss a repeat colonoscopy. Two weeks later, the patient called the defendant from Florida, where she was vacationing, to report that although her constipation had resolved, she now had severe abdominal pain. The defendant urged her to go the ER for a CT scan. The CT scan showed a uterine mass, which was surgically removed a few days later and determined to ovarian cancer, including a rare highly aggressive carcinosarcoma. Despite surgery and chemotherapy, the patient died four months later. The patient’s adult daughter sued the gastroenterologist, alleging that he should have done a rectal exam at the office visit and/or ordered a CT scan. Plaintiff alleged that the failure to do so resulted in a delay in diagnosis and wrongful death.

The defense theme was that neither a rectal exam nor abdominal CT were warranted given the patient’s complaints that day and the defendant’s findings on physical exam. Moreover, the two-week alleged delay in diagnosis did not alter the outcome. After three days of evidence, the jury deliberated for an hour before returning a defense verdict.

Defense counsel Byron Mitchell provided case information.


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