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Jury Hits Radiologist With $5 Million Judgment

November 21, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Emergency Radiology, Neuroradiology
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A New Hampshire jury decided last week that radiologist Ellen Johnson, MD, was solely at fault for misdiagnosing a 25-year-old stroke victim. It awarded $5 million to Noel and Adam Jodoin, a wife and husband who had sued Dr. Johnson for medical negligence.

The verdict, according to the Portsmouth Herald of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, followed a two-week trial and three hours of jury deliberation.

Noel Jodoin, then 25, showed up at the emergency department of Exeter Hospital in Exeter, New Hampshire, on August 9, 2007. She complained of a prolonged, severe headache, then began exhibiting slurred speech and other neurological symptoms. She was given a CT scan.

According to the Jodoins’ lawsuit, Dr. Johnson was then a radiologist at Advanced Diagnostic Imaging, which had a contract to operate the radiology department at Exeter Hospital. After reading the CT scan, the lawsuit said, Dr. Johnson’s findings were: “There is no evidence of acute hemorrhage, mass lesion, mass effect, acute ischemia, or extraaxial fluid collections.”

Dr. Johnson did note some abnormalities but said they were “of doubtful clinical significance.”

In fact, according to the suit, Jodoin had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. A second CT scan after she was airlifted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston showed “bilateral intracranial hemorrhages with extension into subarachnoids from the superior sagittal sinus caused by thrombosis or stroke,” according to the suit.

Jodoin subsequently underwent brain surgery. Gary Richardson, one of her lawyers, said she is still trying to regain normal everyday functioning with the help of therapy and rehabilitative services. Having children may not be an option, he said, because any pregnancy would be high-risk.

The lawsuit said a neurologist later reviewed the first CT scan—the one initially read by Dr. Johnson—and said that it did show significant abnormalities.

During the trial, Dr. Johnson said that she had expressed some concerns about the CT scan to emergency personnel at Exeter Hospital, but that they didn’t take any action.

Richardson, the Jodoin lawyer, said afterward:

We’re extremely happy the jury ruled in our favor, and we did not feel that the emergency department at Exeter Hospital had done anything wrong, and we were pleased the jury placed 100 percent of the responsibility on Dr. Johnson.

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