Will County, Ill., Jury Enters $230,000 Verdict for Injuries Suffered in Rear-End Crash

On Nov. 18, 2009, 33-year-old Jessica Gaurilidhis was driving eastbound on Interstate 55 in stop-and-go traffic when her car was rear-ended by the defendant, 22-year-old Katelin McLernon. Gaurilidhis’s car was pushed into the car in front of her, causing front and rear damage to her SUV.

She suffered a loosening of her naturally lax left shoulder ligaments, which resulted in partial subluxation of her shoulder. She underwent two capsulorrhaphy procedures to tighten the ligaments. This surgery is complicated and sometimes leaves the patient unable to recover full range of motion. The surgery uses sutures to repair or tighten the capsule that houses the complex workings of the shoulder. The physical therapy after surgery is strenuous, difficult and painful. She also sustained a SLAP tear, surgical scarring and muscular disfigurement to her shoulder and spent $153,702 for medical expenses associated with these injuries. She did not claim any lost time from work.

On a partial motion for summary judgment that was filed on behalf of Gaurilidhis, the defendant was found by the court to be negligent, but the defendant argued at trial that the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by this crash.

Defendant Katelin McLernon hired an expert — an orthopedic surgeon — who gave trial testimony that the plaintiff’s natural shoulder elasticity was a pre-existing condition and the capsulorrhaphy procedure was not related to this collision. The plaintiff attorneys attempted to have the McLernon expert barred as a witness under a Petrillo violation. Because the expert was a member of the same practice group as the treating physician, Dr. Pulluru, the Petrillo violation was raised by a motion to bar.

The Petrillo Doctrine makes it unlawful for a defendant’s lawyer or stranger in any pending case to talk with or communicate in any way to a treating medical provider of a plaintiff in that it would breach the confidentiality of the patient-physician relationship. This law has been in place in Illinois since the Illinois Appellate Court decision was handed down in 1986. Petrillo v. Syntex Laboratories, 148 Ill. App. 3d 581 (1986).

The motion to bar this defense orthopedic surgeon as a witness was denied because the treating physician was located at a different office from the defendant’s expert when he saw and treated the plaintiff. Thus, the trial judge ruled that no violation of the Petrillo Doctrine had occurred.

The attorneys representing Gaurilidhis were Amanda N. Martin and Benjamin R. Swetland. Before the start of the jury trial, counsel for Jessica made a demand to settle the case for $250,000. The only offer to settle the case made by the defendant, Katelin McLernon, was $15,000. In closing arguments, the attorneys for Gaurilidhis asked the jury to return a verdict of $653,700.

The jury’s verdict of $230,000 was made up of the following damages without any reduction for contributory negligence:

• $80,000 for past medical expenses;
• $50,000 for past pain and suffering;
• $50,000 for future pain and suffering;
• $25,000 for loss of normal life; and
• $25,000 for disfigurement.

Jessica Gaurilidhis v. Katelin McLernon, No. 11 L 730 (Will County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accident cases, rear-end automobile crash cases, motorcycle accident cases, pedestrian accident cases and truck accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Arlington Heights, Berwyn, Rosemont, Richton Park, Des Plaines, South Chicago Heights, Rolling Meadows, Palatine, Buffalo Grove, Oak Park, River Forest, Park Forest, Forest Park, Chicago (Midway, Wicker Park, South Loop, East Side), Bridgeview, Countryside, Country Club Hills, Orland Park and Brookfield, Ill.

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