LEWISTON, Maine — In April 2009, a doctor at Central Maine Medical Center told Wendell Strout that he had pancreatic cancer. Not just any cancer, but a very aggressive, Stage 4 form that would almost certainly end his life.
Strout was told “that his life will most likely be measured in months,” according to a court document.
That diagnosis was wrong. What Strout actually had was the less-menacing non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a much more treatable form of the disease.
On Thursday, more than four years after receiving the news, a jury in Androscoggin County Superior Court awarded Strout $200,000 in damages. Strout and his lawyer, Scott Lynch, had asked for $150,000.
“They understood how devastating this news was,” Lynch said of the jury’s decision, “even for a short term.”
Strout had sued CMMC for damages, citing “tremendous emotional distress” as well as lost income and loss of enjoyment.
In April and May 2009, Strout, now 47, thought his days were numbered, according to court documents. He began to prepare for the eventuality, taking time off from his job as animal control officer and trying to figure out how to provide for his wife before dying.
Strout eventually got the good news that his affliction wasn’t as dire as initially believed. It was a great relief, Lynch said, but it also took a toll on the man emotionally. A CMMC physician had been much too quick to share his diagnosis.
“There are some things you have to get right the first time,” Lynch said.
In the suit, former CMMC doctor Ian Reight was accused of failing to procure pathology results prior to advising his patient that he “faced certain death,” according to court documents.
The suit also claimed the doctor was negligent in interpreting the results of a CT scan.
Reight has since left CMMC to join another medical group. In a 2009 letter to Strout, hospital President Laird Covey described Reight as “a very dedicated, caring” provider who believed he was acting in Strout’s behalf when he announced the diagnosis.
In Androscoggin County Superior Court, however, the jury agreed with Lynch and Strout that the misdiagnosis had caused the patient unnecessary anguish.
According to Lynch, it was the first time in his experience that a jury in a civil trial awarded more money than what was asked for in the suit.