Wrongful death lawsuit against Boston radiologist over lung cancer misdiagnosis ends in $16.7 million verdict

by Charles Miller

Back in 2006, Jeanne Ellis visited the emergency room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital with complaints of a persistent cough. A doctor ordered a chest X-ray to rule out pneumonia. Dr. Peter Clarke, a radiologist at the hospital, read the X-ray and determined it to be normal. Ellis was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection and prescribed antibiotics.

Just over a year later, Ellis returned to the hospital after her symptoms worsened. A doctor ordered a CT scan, which showed advanced lung cancer. Within seven months, the cancer spread to her kidney, liver, spine, and pubic bone. Ellis died in August 2008 at the age of 47. Her daughter, Johnette Ellis, sued Dr. Clarke on behalf of her mother.

During the trial, Johnette Ellis presented evidence that the original 2006 chest X-ray showed a 1.5-centimeter nodule in her mother’s upper right lung. The nodule grew to about 2.5 or 3 cm. by the time of the November 2007 visit and CT scan. By that time, Ellis also had many new nodules throughout her lungs that were not present at the time of the chest X-ray.

A Suffolk County Superior Court jury agreed with Johnette Ellis that Dr. Clarke should have spotted the nodule and recognized it as evidence of cancer. The jury awarded $16.7 million in damages.

Do you have a medical malpractice claim?

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by Charles Miller

Charles Miller is a licensed attorney and a partner at Heygood, Orr & Pearson. Charles focuses his practice on areas of complex commercial litigation and personal injury litigation.