AUBURN, Maine — A jury Tuesday awarded a Minot woman and her husband more than $9.6 million in damages in one of the largest medical malpractice awards in Maine after finding a Central Maine Medical Center employee misread her Pap smears.
Ruth Hricko, 63, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer, sued Central Maine Medical Center for medical malpractice in September 2013, her attorney, Owen Pickus of Kennebunk, said Wednesday.
The hospital employed the technician, Ted LaChance. By the time Hricko’s cancer was diagnosed, it was at Stage III, according to her attorney. If it were caught in 2009, treatment would have begun at Stage I.
LaChance, who no longer works for the hospital, misread her annual Pap smears in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Pickus said. The attorney said that as a result of treatment needed to send her cancer into remission, Hricko must use a colostomy bag, has low blood flow to her small bowel, has lost muscle tone in her vagina and suffers from chronic pain and fatigue.
“This is a terrible harm that was avoidable,” Pickus said.
The jury of nine Androscoggin County residents deliberated for an hour and 15 minutes before issuing their verdict after five days of testimony, he said.
They awarded Hricko the following damages: $818,000 for past medical costs, $818,000 for future medical costs, $5 million for pain and suffering, $1 million for permanent impairment. Jurors also awarded $2 million to Michael Hricko for loss of consortium.
Efforts to reach a representative of CMCC were unsuccessful Thursday.
The Sun Journal reported Wednesday: “In a statement following the verdict, CMMC Vice President of Public Affairs Chuck Gill said he was ‘disheartened’ by the jury’s decision. He said Hricko continues to receive treatment at the hospital.”
The damages awarded appear to be one of the largest in state history, according to Christopher Largay of Bangor, who is president elect of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association.
“In my 24 years of practicing law, I know of very few medical malpractice verdicts above $5 million, so this one is exceptional to say the least,” he said Wednesday in an email. “We hope that meaningful changes are made in the medical profession’s diagnosis and treatment of cancer as a result of this jury’s courageous verdict.”