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McKaughan v. Upstate Lung and Critical Care Specialists, P.C.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

September 14, 2017

Lisa McKaughan, Individually and as the Personal Representative of the Estate of William Farr, Appellant,
v.
Upstate Lung and Critical Care Specialists, P.C. and Sau-Yin Wan, M.D., Respondents. Appellate Case No. 2015-001828

          Heard February 15, 2017

         Appeal From Spartanburg County J. Mark Hayes, II, Circuit Court Judge

          Jordan Christopher Calloway, of McGowan Hood & Felder, LLC, of Rock Hill, for Appellant.

          Andrew F. Lindemann, of Davidson & Lindemann, PA, of Columbia; and Ashby W. Davis and David Lee Williford, II, both of Davis, Snyder, Williford & Lehn, P.A., of Greenville, for Respondents.

          LOCKEMY, C.J.

         In this medical malpractice action, Lisa McKaughan, individually and as personal representative of the estate of her father, William Farr, alleges the circuit court erred by directing a verdict in favor of Critical Care Specialists and Dr. Sau-Yin Wan (collectively Respondents). McKaughan also alleges the circuit court improperly excluded the testimony of her expert as unreliable. We reverse.

         FACTS

         On January 11, 2010, Dr. Sau-Yin Wan, a pulmonologist, examined William Farr, a lifelong smoker with complaints of trouble breathing. During Dr. Wan's examination, she ordered a chest x-ray. Dr. Wan interpreted the x-ray herself and determined Mr. Farr suffered from hyperinflation, meaning there was too much air in Mr. Farr's lungs. Dr. Wan specifically looked for nodules in the lungs, which would signal cancer, but did not find any. Dr. Wan diagnosed Farr with dyspnea, COPD, nondependent tobacco use disorder, and hypoxemia. None of these diagnoses indicated the presence of cancer. Dr. Wan recommended Farr stop smoking and instructed him to return to the clinic in six months in order to determine if he stopped smoking. Mr. Farr did not return for his follow-up appointment.

         Following his initial consultation with Dr. Wan, Farr had continuing trouble breathing. McKaughan scheduled an appointment for her father to see Dr. Ronald Littlefield on October 6, 2010. On October 7, 2010, Dr. Littlefield ordered an x-ray of Farr's chest. The x-ray showed a large mass in Farr's right lung. Dr. Littlefield referred Farr to the Lung and Chest Medical Associates for further evaluation.

         Eventually, doctors diagnosed Farr with a nine-centimeter primary lung cancer in his right lung. Doctors removed Farr's cancer in December 2010, and he began chemotherapy and radiation after the surgery.

         Farr subsequently developed a tumor in his left lung in August 2011. Doctors biopsied the tumor and found it was cancerous in April 2012. Doctors diagnosed him with stage four lung cancer, with a three to six month prognosis. Farr died on June 19, 2012. His death certificate lists metastatic lung cancer as the cause of death.

         McKaughan filed a lawsuit on May 30, 2013 against Respondents alleging medical malpractice in their care of her father. She alleged Respondents caused her father's death by failing to diagnose his lung cancer during the January 2010 appointment. The case proceeded to trial on July 27-29, 2015. After McKaughan presented her case, Respondents requested the trial court direct a verdict in their favor. Respondents alleged McKaughan failed to present sufficient evidence of a breach of a standard of care or that any breach caused Farr's death. The trial court denied Respondents' motion on the standard of care issue, but granted their motion because it did not believe McKaughan presented sufficient evidence of causation. The trial court found McKaughan failed to present evidence of how the cancer metastasized from the right lung to the left lung, meaning the jury would have to speculate as to the method of metastasis. This appeal followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "When reviewing a trial court's ruling on a directed verdict motion, this court will reverse if no evidence supports the trial court's decision or the ruling is controlled by an error of law." Burnett v. Family Kingdom, Inc., 387 S.C. 183, 188, 691 S.E.2d 170, 173 (Ct. App. 2010). "When reviewing the trial court's decision on a motion for directed verdict, this court must employ the same standard as the trial court by viewing the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Id. "The trial court ...


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