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Family of woman awarded $10 million in wrongful death suit

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A Richland County jury has awarded $10 million to the family of a woman who died in October 2012 from renal cell carcinoma, a common type of kidney cancer with a five-year survival rate of around 90% for patients diagnosed early.

Bell Legal Group of Georgetown sued Columbia Urological Associates on behalf of the estate of Joann Bannister for failure to properly diagnose and treat her kidney cancer. In 2007, the suit alleged, a 1.8-centimeter lesion was found on Bannister’s left kidney. For five years, according to the suit, the cancer progressed untreated.

Bannister died at age 70 and was not told she had cancer until August 2012, the suit said.

“It’s one of the most heart-wrenching cases I have ever been involved in,” lead attorney Edward Bell said. In a news release announcing the verdict, he added: “The jury agreed that no one should have to go through what this lady and her family went through.”

Bell said Bannister was seen by a cardiologist in 2007 for indiscriminate pain in her chest. A chest scan showed a tumor on the kidney, but Bannister was not told about the tumor, he said. In follow-up visits, doctors told her the tumor was a growth and a shadow, Bell said.

According to testimony, an August 2010 checkup showed bleeding in the kidney. Bell said the doctor testified that, because of the bleeding, he could not determine if there was a tumor, and he would not answer questions about results of an MRI.

“As a result of the negligence and multiple deviations from the proper standard of care, defendants’ actions ultimately caused the decedent’s death,” Bell said in the release.

Defendant attorney Kelli Sullivan of Columbia-based McKay Law Firm did not immediately return a message requesting comment.

A spokesman for Columbia Urological Associates also did not immediately return a message.

The suit originally involved two medical practices, but one was dropped after an earlier settlement. 

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