HomeColumbiaSouth Carolina federal judge approves settlement in medical malpractice suit

South Carolina federal judge approves settlement in medical malpractice suit

Columbia, South Carolina – The widow of an honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran has reached a settlement with the Department of Veterans Affairs over alleged medical malpractice that led to her husband’s death from lung cancer. U.S. Judge Jacquelyn Austin approved the settlement of $850,000 at a federal courthouse in Columbia, South Carolina.

William Whitaker, aged 64, passed away in March 2022, following a battle with lung cancer that was diagnosed more than 20 months after an initial CT scan at the VA’s Dorn Medical Center showed a suspicious mass in one of his lungs. Whitaker’s service to his country spanned nine years in the Army, including time spent in Germany as a mechanic.

The Terms of the Settlement

The agreed settlement amount of $850,000 will be paid by the federal government to Anna Whitaker, William’s wife of 37 years. From this sum, $212,500 is allocated to cover legal fees for the Columbia law firm representing Anna Whitaker. The remainder of the settlement, amounting to $603,000, will be divided between Anna Whitaker and her adult son, William Alan Whitaker.

Neither the Dorn Medical Center nor the federal government has admitted any fault or liability in the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christie Newman, representing the government alongside Kimberly Hamlett, expressed that while there were disagreements over some facts, the settlement was deemed to be in the best interests of the United States.

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Background of the Case

The lawsuit highlights William Whitaker’s health journey, starting with a visit to the VA hospital in June 2020 for a CT scan that revealed a small bulla in his left lung, raising suspicions of cancer that warranted close follow-up. However, subsequent medical appointments, including one conducted over the phone, failed to adequately address the growth detected in the initial scan.

Unfortunately, by February 2022, when Whitaker sought emergency care for severe symptoms including chest pains and weight loss, a large mass was discovered in his left lung. Despite a late diagnosis of stage 3 lung cancer and the commencement of chemotherapy, William Whitaker succumbed to the disease a month later.

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The lawsuit contended that VA doctors missed multiple opportunities to follow up on the suspicious growth found in 2020, arguing that “earlier intervention would have led to diagnosis of cancer at a time when the cancer was readily treatable.”

During the settlement hearing, Judge Austin expressed her condolences to Anna Whitaker, affirming that the settlement was fair and reasonable.

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