After Long Fight, Tremont Sheldon P.C. Wins $832,000 Verdict Against Doctor
Attorney Tremont’s client, Theresa, a 79-year-old wife, mother, and grandmother, began treatment in 1981 with Dr. James Guthrie, who is a colorectal surgeon in Norwalk. She always went and had a procedure that the doctor recommended to her which is called a sigmoidoscopy. During a sigmoidoscopy, a trained physician, who specializes in the colon, inserts a long tube into the rectum with a camera. The camera allows the doctor to see if a person has polyps that might develop into colon cancer. Theresa was always concerned about colon cancer. Therefore, she had this sigmoidoscopy procedure performed by Dr. Guthrie on 22 different occasions from 1981 until 2001. Theresa thought she was doing all she could to avoid getting colon cancer. Theresa trusted Dr. Guthrie. However, Dr. Guthrie never told Theresa before 2001 that a sigmoidoscopy does not check the whole colon for cancer. The tube used in a sigmoidoscopy is too short to reach the whole colon, so it only checks about half way. The best way to check the whole colon is through a different procedure, which is called a colonoscopy.
Dr. Guthrie did not inform Theresa about the colonoscopy or recommend that she have it until 2001. When he did, Theresa got the procedure done right away. Tragically, the test showed that she had colon cancer.
She had a cancerous tumor in the part of her colon that Dr. Guthrie had never checked because the sigmoidoscope tube was too short to reach that area. Theresa had surgery done immediately to remove the cancerous tumor. She had a long and hard recovery. She thought she might not make it.
Theresa, however, is a fighter. Over 50 centimeters of her colon was removed. The recovery was painful. She had to have six subsequent surgeries to repair a variety of hernias that she developed. She also had to undergo a course of chemotherapy.
Theresa believed Dr. Guthrie had made a mistake by not telling her earlier about the colonoscopy. She believed that if Dr. Guthrie had done the colonoscopy years earlier, the cancer could have been caught in its earliest stages as a polyp and easily removed without having to go through surgery and chemotherapy.
She had to live with fear that the cancer would come back. But Dr. Guthrie denied he did anything wrong and produced records he had written, as well as records that others in his office had written, which suggested that he had told Theresa for 20 years to get the colonoscopy but she always refused.
Theresa knew the records were untrue. She knew that before 2001, Dr. Guthrie had never told her about the colonoscopy. She knew that the only way to uncover the truth was to bring her claims to court. Theresa called several lawyers but they refused to take her case. Then she called Tremont Sheldon P.C.. The lawyers and staff at Tremont Sheldon P.C. believed in Theresa. On behalf of Theresa, we investigated her claims and retained doctors from around the Northeast who believed that the actions of Dr. Guthrie were wrong and who testified that the medical standard required him to perform the colonoscopy.
Dr. Guthrie, however, stuck to his guns. He and his team of lawyers and his insurance company refused to offer Theresa one single penny to settle the case! They argued that the doctor did nothing wrong and that it was all Theresa’s fault because she did not get the colonoscopy as Dr. Guthrie claimed he had told her to do.
Attorney Tremont represented Theresa at her trial in Stamford, which was held at the Complex Litigation Court, a special court for difficult cases. Dr. Guthrie’s legal team brought in other doctors from both Connecticut and out of state to say that Dr. Guthrie did all the right things. Attorney Tremont fought back with Dr. Guthrie’s own evidence. He pointed out that the records in the chart were made in different types of ink and in different handwritings. Despite Dr. Guthrie’s original testimony under oath that he could identify the handwriting, Attorney Tremont was able to prove that some of the handwriting actually belonged to Dr. Guthrie’s wife!
The jury was not happy about what they saw during the trial. The jurors took their jury oath and obligation extremely seriously and they deliberated three full days before coming to a unanimous verdict. The jury told Dr. Guthrie that he had been negligent and damaged Theresa. Further, the jury ordered Dr. Guthrie to pay to Theresa the sum of $832,000.
“The jury spoke today and vindicated what Theresa has been saying all along. Doctors, like anyone else, have to be held accountable for their mistakes,” Attorney Jason Tremont said.