The family of 25-year-old Peter Smith, an audit associate at KPMG who died of Lyme carditis—which occurs when Lyme disease bacteria enter the tissue of the heart—on July 2, 2017, was awarded $6.5 million by a jury in Cumberland County, ME, last week after deciding that a Mercy Hospital doctor had failed to accurately diagnose Smith after repeated visits.
Smith’s parents, Angela Smith, 61 and Richard Smith, 63, of Quakertown, PA, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Dr. John R. Henson, Mercy Hospital, and Northern Light Health, which owns Mercy Hospital and nine other hospitals in Maine, in April 2021, according to the Bangor Daily News.
The trial began on Jan. 23 at the courthouse in Portland, ME. The jury deliberated for about three and a half hours before announcing its verdict on Feb. 1.
Smith had visited Henson at Mercy Hospital twice in June 2017, but the doctor didn’t diagnose him with Lyme disease. The Bangor Daily News reported:
Smith, a graduate of Temple University, was living in Portland temporarily on assignment from his employer KPMG as an auditor when he fell ill. He first visited Hanson on June 7, 2017, complaining of a spreading rash, fever, chills, dizziness and a recent headache, the complaint said. Hanson diagnosed him with a rash that was most likely an allergic reaction and a viral infection. The doctor noted, “No signs of Lyme disease.”
The patient returned on June 20, 2017, with similar complaints but was diagnosed with hives.
Five days later, Smith was so ill that he called an ambulance to Maine Medical Center in Portland, the complaint said. Physicians there immediately diagnosed him with Lyme disease and found it had invaded his heart. Smith was treated and released but died July 2, 2017, in Pennsylvania.
A hospital spokesperson said following the verdict, “Mercy Hospital extends its heartfelt sympathy to Mr. Smith’s family and regrets the circumstances that occurred leading to his death.”
Jurors voted 7-2 that Henson and Mercy Hospital must pay $1.5 million for Peter Smith’s “conscious pain and suffering” and $2 million for economic damages. They also awarded $3 million for loss of life, but state law at the time of Smith’s death capped that at $500,000, according to a Portland Press Herald article. The damage award is expected to be reduced to $4 million because of a state law that caps loss-of-life damages.
Even after all that, Henson still works for the hospital, although he no longer is in the emergency department that treated Smith, the Portland Press Herald reported. He was still listed as a doctor of emergency medicine on the hospital’s website as of Feb. 2, and his license was listed as active in the database of the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine.
Smith was studying for the CPA exam at the time of his death and wrote on his LinkedIn profile that his goal was to complete the CPA exam and to improve his skills in accounting.
Jury awards 25-year-old’s parents $6.5 million for Lyme disease misdiagnosis [Bangor Daily News]
Mercy Hospital ordered to pay $6.5 million to family of man who died after misdiagnosis [Portland Press Herald]