Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois

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In December 2007, the decedent had gastric bypass surgery and developed a bed sore that became infected. The Hospital discharged him four days after the procedure. In January 2008, the decedent died from complications associated with a bacterial infection. Ward's initial nine-count complaint was dismissed for failure to comply with the Code of Civil Procedure. First and second amended complaints were also dismissed. The Hospital filed its answer to a third amended complaint. Four years later, in December 2015, the judge issued a pretrial conference order. A jury trial was set for January 2016. On December 31, 2015, the Hospital moved to bar Ward’s disclosure of a rebuttal witness the day before, 20 days before the start of the trial, noting that the case had been pending for six years. Ward unsuccessfully sought leave to file a fourth amended complaint, alleging a survival claim against the Hospital under a theory of respondeat superior and a wrongful death claim against the Hospital under a theory of respondeat superior. Ward successfully moved to voluntarily dismiss the action without prejudice. In May 2016, Ward initiated another lawsuit against the Hospital, nearly identical to the proposed fourth amended complaint. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ward, overturning summary judgment in favor of the Hospital. None of the orders dismissing counts of the various complaints in the initial action were final. The lack of finality renders the doctrine of res judicata inapplicable. View "Ward v. Decatur Memorial Hospital" on Justia Law

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Keith's estate filed a wrongful death and survival action against Ortberg, a licensed clinical social worker and employee assistance program counselor, and her employer Rockford Memorial Hospital, alleging that, on September 30, 2005, Keith had an initial appointment with Ortberg; that it was Ortberg’s duty to evaluate Keith’s mental health condition; that Ortberg breached her duty by performing an inadequate assessment and failed to recognize that Keith was at high risk for suicide, and failed to refer him to an emergency room or a psychiatrist for immediate treatment. Keith died by suicide on or about October 6, 2005. The circuit court submitted an instruction, over plaintiff’s objection, asking the jury to respond “Yes” or “No”: Was it reasonably foreseeable to Ortberg on September 30, that Keith would commit suicide on or before October 9? The jury entered a general verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding damages of $1,495,151, but answered “No” on the special interrogatory. The circuit court ruled that the special interrogatory answer was inconsistent with the general verdict and entered judgment in defendants’ favor. The appellate court found, and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, that the special interrogatory was not in proper form and should not have been given to the jury; it did not apply the objective “reasonable person” standard for determining foreseeability and, therefore, misstated the law, Because the special interrogatory was ambiguous, the jury’s answer was not necessarily inconsistent with its general verdict. View "Stanphill v. Ortberg" on Justia Law

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Defendant struck Plaintiff, a pedestrian with his vehicle. Plaintiff filed a personal injury suit. Defendant filed an answer with an affirmative defense. Defendant answered an interrogatory about his drivers' license by stating that he had diabetes and required medical approval to drive, but refused to answer follow-up questions about his medical condition, stating that the question violates HIPAA, doctor-patient privilege; the Defendant has not placed his medical condition at issue. The court found that Plaintiff had legitimate cause to believe that Defendant had sight problems that could have been related to the accident and held Defendant’s attorney in contempt. The court found the attorney was not entitled to assert the physician-patient privilege, 735 ILCS 5/8-802. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s reversal of the contempt order. A plaintiff may not waive a defendant’s privilege by putting the defendant’s medical condition at issue. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant asserted anything about defendant’s physical or mental condition. If these allegations put a defendant’s medical condition in issue, then it will be at issue in most traffic accident cases. The court urged the legislature to clarify the meaning of “at issue” and noted that, when a patient obtains a physician’s report to maintain his driving privileges, he is not seeking treatment so the privilege does not apply to the record filed with the Secretary of State. View "Palm v. Holocker" on Justia Law

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The administrator of the decedent’s estate brought a wrongful death and survival action against Union Health Service based on alleged negligence in providing medical treatment the decedent. UHS moved to dismiss on the grounds that it is immune from suit under the Voluntary Health Services Plans Act (215 ILCS 165/26), as a “health services plan corporation”. The Act provides: A health services plan corporation incorporated prior to January 1, 1965, operated on a not for profit basis, and neither owned or controlled by a hospital shall not be liable for injuries resulting from negligence, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance or malpractice on the part of any officer or employee of the corporation, or on the part of any person, organization, agency or corporation rendering health services to the health services plan corporation’s subscribers and beneficiaries.” The circuit court denied the motion, reasoning that a 1988 amendment to section 26 was unconstitutional because it left intact UHS’s statutory immunity while eliminating that immunity for all other similarly situated entities. The Illinois Supreme court reversed. UHS was also immune under the prior version of the law. The former version of the law has been upheld by our appellate court against constitutional attack. addressing the constitutionality of the 1988 amendment is not necessary for resolution of this case. View "Gonzalez v. Union Health Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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Erie is a Chicago “Federally Qualified Health Center” (FQHC), 42 U.S.C. 254b (2012). FQHCs rely heavily on federal grants and Medicaid reimbursement. Erie Employees are federal employees under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 42 U.S.C. 233(a). Erie was founded as a project between Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH) and Erie Neighborhood House in 1957. NMH provides financial support and technical assistance, but Erie physicians seeking NMH privileges are required to apply for them. In 2005, Yarbrough went to the Erie after searching for a clinic that would not require insurance coverage. Yarbrough was informed that she would have her ultrasounds done at Northwestern and would likely deliver her baby at NMH. Based upon information she received during the visit, Yarbrough believed that Erie and NMH were the same entity. Yarbrough sued NMH. based on her daughter’s premature birth, alleging medical negligence. The Illinois Supreme Court answered a certified question: A hospital cannot be held vicariously liable under the doctrine of apparent agency set forth in Gilbert v. Sycamore, for the acts of the employees of an unrelated, independent clinic that is not a party to the litigation. Yarbrough sought treatment at Erie but looks to impose liability on NMH. Erie is neither owned nor operated by NMH. While Erie receives some charitable assistance from NMH, it relies heavily on federal money. Erie does not utilize the Northwestern name, Northwestern-related branding, or Northwestern’s trademark purple color. View "Yarbrough v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital" on Justia Law

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Prusak filed medical malpractice complaint in 2011, against Dr. Jager, University Retina, and University of Chicago medical providers. Prusak claimed that from 2007-2009, she received treatment from Dr. Jager for “flashes, spots and floaters in her eyes.” In 2009, she underwent a brain biopsy that showed she had central nervous system lymphoma. She alleged that Dr. Jager was negligent in failing to order appropriate diagnostic testing. Prusak died in November 2013. Prusak’s daughter was allowed to substitute herself as plaintiff, as the executor of Prusak’s estate and, in April 2014, filed an amended complaint, citing the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/2), and the Survival Act (755 ILCS 5/27-6) and the same allegations of negligence as the original complaint. Defendants alleged that plaintiff’s wrongful death claim was barred by the four-year medical malpractice statute of repose because decedent had died more than four years after the last alleged act of negligent medical treatment. Plaintiff responded that the wrongful death claim related back to the original complaint under 735 ILCS 5/2-616(b). The circuit court dismissed the wrongful death claim. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The wrongful death action accrued upon decedent’s death, which occurred after the four-year repose period had expired. If plaintiff had filed an original wrongful death complaint at that time, it would have been barred by the statute of repose but a pending complaint can be amended to include a wrongful death claim that accrued after the statute of repose expired. View "Lawler v. University of Chicago Medical Center" on Justia Law

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On May 18, 2009, plaintiff’s 90-year-old mother was admitted to Peoria’s Proctor Hospital for a rectal prolapse. During Kathryn’s hospitalization, she experienced numerous complications. On May 29, 2009, Kathryn died. In March, 2010, plaintiff received Kathryn’s medical records. In April 2011, plaintiff received an oral opinion that Drs. Williamson and Salimath were negligent in treating Kathryn. On May 10, 2011, plaintiff filed a complaint against those doctors. On February 28, 2013, Kathryn’s CT scans were reviewed upon plaintiff’s request. Dr. Dachman opined that Dr. Rhode’s failure to properly identify certain findings caused or contributed to the injury and death of Kathryn. In March 2013, plaintiff filed suit under Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/1) and the Survival Act (755 ILCS 5/27-6), claiming medical malpractice against Rhode. Defendants argued that plaintiff had sufficient information more than two years before he filed his complaint to put him on inquiry to determine whether actionable conduct was involved, so that, even if the “discovery rule” applied, the complaint was untimely. The trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. A divided appellate court affirmed, reasoning that the discovery rule had no application to wrongful death or survival actions because both causes of action were legislatively created and not found at common law and that, even if that rule were applied, plaintiff’s complaint would be untimely. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, finding the discovery rule applicable. A factual determination must be made as to when the statute of limitations began to run. Plaintiff filed his lawsuit less than two years after receiving the initial verbal medical expert report and within the four-year statute of repose. View "Moon v. Rhode" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an obstetrician and gynecologist (OB-GYN) licensed to practice medicine in Illinois since 1975, was reappointed to the staff at Northwestern in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, plaintiff applied for reappointment; the division chief of gynecology at the hospital, reviewed one of plaintiff’s gynecological surgeries and deemed that it did not meet relevant criteria; 21 of his cases were then reviewed. Plaintiff sued, following revocation of his privileges to practice at the hospital following a peer review conducted pursuant to the Illinois Hospital Licensing Act, 210 ILCS 85/1. The trial court entered summary judgment, finding that the hospital was immune from suit and that it had complied with its bylaws and had not engaged in any wilful and wanton conduct. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting constitutional challenges to the immunity granted by the Licensing Act. View "Valfer v. Evanston NW Healthcare" on Justia Law

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The Klaines filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Dressen and against Southern Illinois Hospital Services (SIHS), for the negligent credentialing of Dressen. During discovery SIHS provided 1,700 pages of documents. SIHS refused to provide other documents, which it listed in a privilege log, citing the Medical Studies Act (735 ILCS 5/8-2101) and the Health Care Professional Credentials Data Collection Act (410 ILCS 517/1). The circuit court agreed with SIHS, with the exception of documents contained in Group B, Group F, and Group J. SIHS complied with respect to Group B, but continued to maintain that the documents in Groups F and J were privileged. Group F consists of Dressen’s three applications to SIHS for staff privileges. Group J contains “procedure summaries and case histories” that list surgical procedures that Dressen performed at SIHS. The circuit court held SIHS in contempt and imposed a $1 monetary sanction. On interlocutory appeal, the court affirmed, with modifications: all references to an external peer review report contained in Dressen’s application for staff privileges were to be redacted, and any patient identifying information was to be redacted to the extent required by 45 C.F.R. 164.512(e). The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, finding no basis for holding that a physician-patient privilege applies to raw data regarding treatment and procedures performed. View "Klaine v. S. Ill. Hosp. Servs." on Justia Law