January 24, 2003
NEW MILFORD — A terminally ill woman who used to live in Connecticut has won a large award in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The doctor was found negligent when he misdiagnosed her for years.
Ann Wendt is 66 years old, and she says this should have been the best part of her life. But every day she takes a pile of medications, including the strong pain killer Oxycontin, to deal with her liver cancer. She says what makes her most angry is that her cancer was curable if her doctor had caught it early enough.
Ann and Dave Wendt are retired and had looked forward to growing old together. But the Wendt's say that dream has been robbed from them. Back in 1992 Ann complained of stomach pain and was referred to Dr. Gerald Franklin, a Danbury internist. A CAT scan revealed a spot on her liver.
"He figured it's a benign tumor," Ann said. "I could have been born with it or what have you. He just didn't follow through with it.
"Every time I went into his office I would say 'how's my spot,' and he would say Annie, it's fine. If it had been cancer you would be dead by now."
But Ann says it was not until five years later, when she saw another doctor in her Cape Coral, Florida, home that she found the tumor was cancerous.
"He had all of those years, he could have followed through. Given me the attention I needed. I trusted him."
In 1999, Ann filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Franklin. Thursday, a jury awarded her and her husband $800,000. Ann says the suit was not about the money.
"It proved that he was wrong, and that he maybe will not get a chance to do it to somebody else."
"The basis of the case was that Dr. Franklin did not do what he needed to do in order to rule out cancer," said Wendt's attorney Carey Reilly.
And as Dave looks back on the vibrant life that he and Ann used to share he feels a sense of disappointment.
"Ann had a lot of faith in Dr. Franklin, and if you were to asked her how she felt about him, she liked him, she always liked him," he said.
"How do you help David prepare for life?"
"We don't talk about it. Every time I bring it up he says 'you're not going to die,'" she says.
"I certainly don't want to go out at my age. I'm too young."
The Wendt's attorney says this case was significant because the $800,000 was awarded for pain and suffering, not to cover medical costs.
News Channel 8 tried to reach Dr. Franklin and his attorney, but our calls were not returned.