Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
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Johnson suffers from severe, permanent nerve damage, which he alleges was caused by a negligently performed hip replacement surgery. He sued his surgeon, Dr. Armstrong, citing specific negligence and the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. He also brought a res ipsa loquitur claim against a surgical technician who participated in the surgery. Johnson provided one expert witness, also a surgeon, to establish the elements of res ipsa loquitur. The court granted the technician summary judgment, stating that Johnson failed to present an expert witness to establish the standard of care for a technician, that the control element of res ipsa loquitur was not met, and that there was no evidence of negligence on the technician’s part. The court subsequently granted Armstrong summary judgment on the res ipsa loquitur count, leaving the count of specific negligence remaining. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court dismissed and vacated in part. The effect of the summary judgment in favor of Armstrong is to preclude Johnson from proving that Armstrong was negligent under the unique proofs of res ipsa loquitur, but the claim for negligence remains outstanding. The summary judgment order with respect to Armstrong was not a final judgment; the appellate court lacked jurisdiction. With respect to the other defendants, the elements of res ipsa loquitur were met at the time of the decision; no further expert testimony on the standard of care was required. Given that the Armstrong summary judgment was pronounced after the technician was orally dismissed from the res ipsa loquitur count, the circuit court was directed to reconsider that order in light of this opinion. View "Johnson v. Armstrong" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs alleged that the doctors negligently failed to recognize that Thomas was pregnant before performing elective surgery on her and administering anesthesia, pain medication, and antibiotics, resulting in irreversible injury to the fetus. Thomas was subsequently informed by another physician that the fetus would not survive to term and the pregnancy should be terminated. Thomas had a lawful, consensual abortion. Because the abortion would not have occurred but for the doctors’ negligent conduct and the injuries suffered by the fetus, plaintiffs alleged that defendants’ negligence “ultimately caused the death of” the fetus.Responding to a question certified by the trial court, the appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court held that the Wrongful Death Act, 740 ILCS 180/2.2, does not bar a cause of action against a defendant for fetal death if the defendant knew or had a medical reason to know of the pregnancy and the alleged malpractice resulted in a non-viable fetus that died as a result of a lawful abortion with requisite consent. Section 2.2 addresses only the liability of the doctor who performs the abortion, not the liability of other physicians, and does not state that abortion is a superseding cause, as a matter of law, where a physician tortiously injures a fetus in a separate medical procedure. View "Thomas v. Khoury" on Justia Law

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Jill, age 42, died two days after seeking treatment at Mercy’s emergency department. A postmortem examination by the medical examiner indicated that Jill died from myocarditis resulting from sepsis; Jill’s blood cultures showed that MRSA bacteria was present in Jill’s blood. At the request of Jill’s family, Bryant performed a second autopsy and concluded that Jill’s cause of death was acute and chronic congestive heart failure due to dilated cardiomyopathy. Bryant’s report did not indicate that Jill had myocarditis or sepsis. Her estate sued for wrongful death and medical negligence, arguing that Jill died of toxic shock syndrome and sepsis caused by a retained tampon, which could have been treated by antibiotics if timely diagnosed. A jury returned a verdict in favor of all defendants.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting an argument that the circuit court abused its discretion and denied the plaintiff a fair trial by refusing to issue a nonpattern jury instruction on the loss of chance doctrine and a pattern jury instruction on informed consent. When a jury is instructed on proximate cause through a pattern jury instruction, the lost chance doctrine, as a form of proximate cause, is encompassed within that instruction. The plaintiff never alleged that Jill consented to medical treatment without being adequately informed and that the treatment injured her. The plaintiff’s proposed jury instruction did not identify any treatment Jill received or any injury she received from that treatment. View "Bailey v. Mercy Hospital and Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Ittersagen brought a medical malpractice action against Advocate Medical and Dr. Thakadiyil, alleging that the defendants negligently failed to diagnose him with sepsis and treat him appropriately. A jury was sworn. More than halfway through the trial, the court received a note from a juror, who reported that he had a business relationship with “the Advocate Health Care System Endowment.” The juror, a partner in a company that handles investments, said he believed the endowment was affiliated with but separate from Advocate Medical. He explained that his connection to Advocate Medical was so attenuated that he forgot to mention it during jury selection. The juror insisted that the outcome of the trial would not affect him financially and that he could remain fair and impartial. The trial court denied Ittersagen’s request to remove the juror for actual bias or implied bias and to replace him with an alternate juror. The jury returned a verdict for the defendants.The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting an argument that the juror’s business relationship with the endowment created a presumption of bias that cannot be rebutted by claims of impartiality. The court noted the lack of evidence of the affiliation between the endowment and Advocate. The juror did not owe Advocate a fiduciary duty and did not have any other direct relationship with the defendants that would create a presumption of juror bias as a matter of law. View "Ittersagen v. Advocate Health and Hospitals Corp." on Justia Law

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On January 29, 2009, Glenn suffered a partial tear of his Achilles tendon. On February 17, Glenn sought treatment from Dr. Treacy at Rezin Orthopedics. Glenn was 42 years old and borderline obese. Dr. Treacy’s treatment plan included placing Glenn’s lower right leg in a plantar flexion position, set in a plaster cast for six weeks. Dr. Treacy memorialized his recommendation for Glenn to return for a follow-up appointment in two weeks in an invoice. Glenn required an appointment within a day or two for cast placement because he had driven himself to the appointment. Dr. Treacy directed the receptionist (Decker) to schedule a two-week follow-up appointment. Decker scheduled Glenn’s casting appointment for February 19 at another office. After Glenn’s leg was casted, the receptionist, Hare, scheduled Glenn’s follow-up appointment for March 13, more than three weeks after his initial appointment. On February 25, Glenn telephoned Rezin. The receptionist, Popplewell, rescheduled Glenn’s follow-up visit for March 12. On March 8, Glenn died of a pulmonary embolism.In a wrongful death and survival action, a jury returned a defense verdict. Glenn’s administrator appealed only the verdict in favor of Rezin. The appellate court reversed with directions to enter judgment n.o.v. in favor of the estate. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the verdict. The evidence supported a conclusion that Rezin’s failures did not proximately cause Glenn’s death. Glenn’s death was not a reasonably foreseeable result of Rezin's failure to schedule his follow-up appointment within two weeks of his initial appointment. View "Steed v. Rezin Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, S.C." on Justia Law

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After Dameron underwent a robotic-assisted hysterectomy at Mercy Hospital, she brought a medical malpractice action. During discovery, Dameron disclosed Dr. Preston as a controlled expert witness under Ill. Sup. Ct. Rule 213(f)(3). Dameron stated that Preston would testify concerning "the comparison electromyogram and/or nerve conduction studies he will be performing" and would also testify that he reviewed the results of Dameron’s November 2013 EMG and NCV tests performed at Mercy. In June 2017, Preston performed the EMG study and prepared a report. In July 2017, Dameron e-mailed the defendants, stating that she was withdrawing Preston as a Rule 213(f)(3) controlled expert witness and considering him to be a Rule 201(b)(3) non-testifying expert consultant and that she would not produce any documents from Preston’s review of the case or his examination. Dameron moved to change Preston’s designation and sought to preclude discovery of facts and opinions known by Preston absent a showing of exceptional circumstances, stating that Preston was not one of her treating physicians.The appellate court reversed the denial of Dameron’s motion. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Defendants are not entitled to Preston’s report and EMG study on the basis that Preston served as Dameron’s treating physician; Preston was consulted for the purpose of providing testimony. A party is permitted to redesignate an expert from a Rule 213(f) controlled expert witness to a Rule 201(b)(3) consultant in a reasonable amount of time before trial, where a report has not yet been disclosed. Rule 201(b)(3) protects both conceptual data and factual information. Defendants did not show exceptional circumstances. View "Dameron v. Mercy Hospital & Medical Center" on Justia Law

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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