LEWISTON — A Greene man who had been told he had a fatal form of cancer by a local hospital’s doctor won’t have to go to trial to prove his case again.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday that the jury verdict delivered in favor of Wendell Strout at his civil trial last year in Androscoggin County Superior Court should stand.

Central Maine Medical Center appealed the verdict to the state’s highest court, arguing that the trial judge shouldn’t have allowed a 2009 letter from a hospital executive to Strout which admitted that Strout’s doctor should have waited for more conclusive test results before issuing a fatal diagnosis, which turned out to be wrong. In that letter, then-President and CEO Laird Covey sympathized over the anguish the premature diagnosis caused Strout.

The hospital’s appeal was heard in oral arguments by the high court in April in Portland.

Active-Retired Justice Robert Clifford had allowed the jury to hear one sentence of Laird’s letter in which he refers to an April 2009 meeting between Strout and his CMMC doctor: “He realizes now that, prior to sharing his clinical impressions with you, he needed to wait for the results of the biopsy to confirm what the cancer was.”

In April 2009, Strout was suffering abdominal pain and sought treatment at the hospital’s emergency room, according to court documents. A CT scan showed a large lesion on Strout’s liver. Dr. Ian Reight, a general surgeon at CMMC at that time, made a preliminary diagnosis that the cancer was of “hepatic, biliary or pancreatic origin,” according to court records.


Several days later, Strout met again with Reight, who told him he may have hepatic or pancreatic cancer, which would be inoperable due to its size and location. If that were the case, even with chemotherapy, Strout wouldn’t be expected to live more than a year, he was told.

More than a month later, Strout found out he actually suffered from the less-menacing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a more treatable form of the disease, his attorney, Scott Lynch, had said.

Strout had taken time off from his job as animal control officer in Lewiston and surrounding municipalities. He had sought to provide for his wife before dying.

The jury awarded Strout $200,000 in damages, one-third more than he had sought.


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