$867K Medical Malpractice Verdict Upheld Despite Wrong Version of Jury Instruction – Studt v. Sherman Health Systems

Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits rely on the assumption that a doctor, nurse, or facility violated the appropriate standard of care; therefore, all medical malpractice lawsuits require parties to establish the jury with a concept of what was in fact the acceptable medical standard of care. The jury is then instructed as to how to analyze the medical malpractice case when making decisions regarding the standard of care. Therefore, if a jury were given incorrect instructions on how to evaluate the medical standard of care, then it might affect the jury’s reasoning and eventual verdict.
The Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit of Jane Studt et al. v. Sherman Health Systems, No. 108182 was brought before the Illinois Supreme Court in order to determine whether the Illinois jury was given the incorrect version of Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction 105.01. In an unexpected twist, the Supreme Court held that the jury did receive the wrong jury instruction version, but still upheld the jury’s original verdict.

Illinois Pattern Instruction (IPI) 105.01 has both a 2005 and 2006 version. The jury was read the 2006 version; however, the defense contended that the early 2005 version was actually the correct instruction. Both the appellate court and supreme court agreed with the defense and held that the 2005 version was in fact the correct jury instruction.
The defense also identified three important ways that the 2005 version differed from the 2006 version:

1) the 2006 version does not identify the type of evidence the jury can consider while deciding whether a physician violated the standard of care;
2) the 2006 version does not provide guidance on how to determine whether the physician’s care was reasonable; and
3) the 2006 incorrectly informed the jury it could use personal knowledge when deciding the medical malpractice lawsuit.

In addition, the defense was critical of that the 2006 version defined the standard of care as a “reasonably careful professional,” while the 2005 version has the lower requirement of a “reasonably well-qualified professional.” The defense argued that by setting the standard as “careful” required jurors to make personal judgment calls regarding the physician’s actions instead of relying on the expert testimony.
While the supreme court agreed with the defense’s argument that the 2006 version erroneously asks jurors to consider evidence other than expert testimony, the court did not find that this instruction kept the defendants from receiving a fair trail. As a result of this conclusion, the Supreme Court rejected the defendant’s argument that the jury instruction error required the higher court to reverse the original judgment. Therefore, the $867,394 medical malpractice jury verdict was affirmed by a unanimous court decision.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Cook County medical malpractice cases for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago and Cook County, including Rosemont, Riverdale, Calumet City, Oakbrook Terrace, LaGrange, and Palos Heights.
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