Maryland Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit Results in $3.6 Million Verdict

The family of a 47-year old Maryland lawyer who died as a result of misdiagnosed skin cancer that spread to his brain, has been awarded $5.8 million by a jury in a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, under the Maryland damages cap, the verdict will be reduced to $3.6 million.

On November 17, 2008, a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury returned the verdict in the case of Richard Semsker, 47, who died in 2007. The case was filed by attorney Patrick Malone on behalf of Semsker’s wife, two children and his estate.

The Maryland malpractice lawsuit alleged that Semsker’s doctors failed to properly diagnose and remove a mole on his back following examinations in 1998 and 2004. By the time it was discovered that the mole was cancerous in 2006, the cancer had spread to Semsker’s brain and other parts of his body.

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Given the progressive nature of most cancers, prompt diagnosis and treatment can have a substantial impact on an individuals ability to survive and recover from the disease. Cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits are often pursued in cases where the diagnosis is delayed by several months or years after the symptoms and complaints were first presented to the doctors.

In the Semsker case, the jury awarded $5.8 million to the family and the estate, but the Maryland Daily Record reports that the verdict will be reduced to $3.6 million under the Maryland damages cap, which limits the amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded in a Maryland personal injury lawsuit.

The verdict included $2.8 million in economic damages for the financial losses the family will suffer as a result of the death, and that amount will not be reduced. However, the remaining $3 million, which was awarded to his estate, the widow and each of his two children, will be capped at $812,500 under Maryland law.

The Maryland damage cap limits the amount of compensation that can be awarded for pain, suffering, physical injury, mental anguish and other damages which do not have a defined value.

The Maryland Court of Appeals has found that the cap is constitutional, and it increases each year based on when the cause of action arose. However, in Maryland wrongful death lawsuits, where there are two or more claimants or beneficiaries, the damages cap is increased by 50%.


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