Plaintiff’s decedent presented to the Emergency Department with complaints of mid and right upper quadrant pain. The Emergency Department physician, concerned for an abdominal aortic aneurysm, ordered an abdominal CT scan.
The CT scan was interpreted by the defendant physician, a Diagnostic Radiologist. The defendant physician ruled out an abdominal aortic aneurysm and found a gallstone that was subsequently removed in surgery, resolving his mid and right upper quadrant pain.
The defendant physician did not report any significant findings in the distal colon and rectum, as those structures appeared to contain fecal material. Subsequently, the decedent was diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer, which led to his death.
Plaintiff alleged that the defendant physician negligently failed to identify the colon and rectal mass.
The defense argued that, while the mass is identifiable with the benefit of hindsight, a reasonably well-qualified diagnostic radiologist would not have identified the mass, as a mass and fecal material look similar on CT.
At the conclusion of plaintiff’s case-in-chief, a directed verdict was entered in favor of the defendant physician. The basis of the court’s ruling was plaintiff’s failure to establish sufficient evidence of a proximate causal connection between the alleged negligence and plaintiff’s decedent’s course of treatment and ultimate outcome.