Illinois Appellate Court Reverses $3.6 Million Verdict Over Faulty Evidence

The Illinois Appellate Court has reversed a jury verdict of $3.6 million as being too speculative and without enough discovery. The unpublished order was issued remanding Nazmi Nomat’s automobile-injury case back to the Circuit Court of Cook County to determine again how much he should receive in damages in the case where the defendants admitted liability.

This time, however, the defense will be able to conduct more discovery and Nomat won’t be able to present an expert who testified about $1 million in lost wages.

In the new trial on damages, Nomat, who is now 49, will have to again attempt to prove damages resulting from the October 2009 automobile accident that he was involved in. Nomat suffered injuries to his lower spine and right ankle. Although Nomat was released from the hospital the same day of the crash, he subsequently saw a chiropractor and other physicians for neck, lower back, left shoulder and right ankle pain and treatment through March 2010.

In May 2010, a neurosurgeon began treating Nomat for his recurring pain and performed a disk decompression surgery in March 2011.

The neurosurgeon fused three lumbar disks in Nomat’s spine in May 2012 after alternative treatments failed to alleviate his pain.

Of the $741,043 that Nomat accrued from the neurosurgeon’s care, the neurosurgeon charged him $254,481 as a surgical fee and Metro South Medical Center, the facility at which Nomat received the fusion, charged him $316,890 for the hardware implant used in the fusion.

While the surgeon testified at trial that all of the medical charges associated with Nomat’s injuries were consistent with his treatment, the defense expert testified otherwise.

Mary Rossi, who reviews Chicago’s neurosurgeon and spine surgeon’s bills using price-comparing software, testified that Nomat’s bills were hundreds of thousand dollars more expensive than those for the same procedure conducted elsewhere in the Chicago area.

However, the presiding trial judge ruled that Rossi couldn’t testify on the bills’ reasonableness when the software she used provides cost ranges instead of definite numbers and considers insurance companies reimbursement guidelines. The trial judge barred Rossi’s whole testimony because she ruled it would be based on an opinion she was not qualified to give.

After acquiring records and receipts regarding hardware used in Nomat’s surgery, the defendants in August 2013 tried to conduct more discovery to find out who could testify to the reasonableness of the hardware charges.

The trial judge quashed those subpoenas, because the parties’ October 2013 trial was scheduled to start within 60 days.

About a month later, the trial judge allowed Nomat to supplement his discovery documents and disclose more than 250 pages of medical records, bills and witness lists.

Nomat also relied on the economics expert Dr. Charles Linke’s opinion that he suffered around $1 million in lost wages, because he expected to begin working as a butcher making $1,000 a week before the accident.

The jury deliberations returned $3,560,836 in damages for Nomat, which included $1,115,000 for past and future medical expenses; $750,000 for pain and suffering; $750,000 for loss of normal life; and $945,836 for lost earnings based on Dr. Linke’s calculations.

However, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed and remanded the verdict holding that Dr. Linke’s wage analysis was too speculative and the defendants were denied a fair trial. The panel held that Rossi could have testified to the reasonableness of Nomat’s medical bills because her employer’s database allows her to speak to such things by comparing bills for visits, treatments and markups for the hardware he received during surgery.

The panel held that Rossi’s opinion that Nomat’s hardware had been marked up by about 450 percent was appropriate.

“This evidence should have been presented to the jury. This is particularly true since the [neurosurgeon] was allowed to testify that the markup was reasonable given that for-profit hospitals have to pay so many people to run the hospital.”

The panel also held that the trial judge should not have quashed the defense’s supplemental subpoenas, especially since they were persistent to follow up on their requests from as far back as 74 days before the start of the trial.

“To quash defendants’ subpoenas while simultaneously allowing plaintiff’s supplemental discovery with over 250 additional pages of medical records within 60 days of trial, was unfair and prejudicial to the defendants.”

The panel also vacated the jury’s verdict because Dr. Linke’s testimony was based on an assumption that held no reasonable certainty to occur.

Linke’s opinion was based on Nomat’s attorney’s indication that Nomat would have made $52,000 a year had he taken the job he was offered. However, Nomat never made more than $26,000 annually while he managed a cell phone store with his wife and said he had been unemployed for 18 months before this crash.

Considering those facts, the panel held, the jury awarded lost earning damages that were against the manifest weight of the evidence.

This case goes back to the trial court where Rossi or another billing defense expert can testify to the medical charges and Nomat cannot use an economic expert to testify to lost wages. However, a question remains regarding whether Nomat can still pursue a lost-wage argument at all, just without an expert.

The outcome now is dependent on this new trial on damages.

Nomat v. Mota, et al., 2015 IL App (1st) 140102-U.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accident cases, truck accident cases, catastrophic injury cases, bicycle accident cases and motorcycle accidents for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 38 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Arlington Heights, Palatine, Highland Park, Cicero, Wilmette, Park Ridge, Schiller Park, Hickory Hills, Dixmoor, Deerfield, Crete, Crestwood, Countryside, Buffalo Grove, Brookfield, Hoffman Estates, Summit, Chicago (Greek Town, Gold Coast, Garfield Ridge, Englewood, Edgewater, Edison Park, Chinatown, Rogers Park, Sheffield, Wrigleyville, West Loop, Korea Town, Jefferson Park, Jackson Park), Western Springs and Palos Hills, Ill.

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