In November 2003, the defendant R.A. was driving while intoxicated on Route 173 in Spring Grove, Ill. He apparently fell asleep, crossed the center line and crashed head-on into the car occupied by L.M., who was a passenger. L.M. was airlifted to Rockford Memorial Hospital where he remained in intensive care for two months. He suffered numerous injuries, including broken ribs, lung contusion, a lacerated spleen and a stroke after the splenectomy surgery to remove his damaged spleen.
While L.M., age 56, was in intensive care, he developed a large Stage IV bed sore on his lower back. The ulcer had to be debrided and a bilateral flap procedure was done to cover the skin opening.
L.M. was an unemployed truck driver. He died prior to the trial, although no wrongful death claim was brought. His wife claimed loss of consortium, which is the spouse’s right of action for the missing love and affection that comes with companionship and marriage.
At the time of the crash, L.M. and three friends were driving to a fishing trip. The driver of the vehicle was killed and all three passengers, including L.M., were seriously injured.
The defendant R.A., age 46, admitted negligence and pled guilty to felony DUI charges, including reckless homicide. He served 5 ½ months in jail and 5 ½ years of probation. He had been drinking at an off-track betting facility operated by defendant Quad City Downs. The family of L.M. filed a lawsuit under the Illinois Dramshop Act against Quad City Downs and a separate medical malpractice claim against Rockford Memorial Hospital, alleging that it was negligent in not taking proper take care of L.M.’s bed sore.
The defendant Quad City Downs argued that R.A. may have had other alcoholic drinks at other places after leaving its bar. The hospital argued that L.M. was a high-risk patient due to his multiple injuries. It argued that the bed sore developed in the absence of any medical or nursing negligence and that it was a complication of his long period of treatment in the ICU.
R.A. had a $300,000 insurance policy and settled at that amount with the family of L.M. and the three other occupants of the vehicle that R.A. crashed into. The family of L.M. received $75,000 as for that settlement with R.A.
The dramshop part of the case with Quad City Downs settled for $100,000 during jury deliberations.
This case was complicated because of the nature of the different claims. Because there was a medical malpractice action as well, a special verdict form was used. The case of Auten v. Franklin, 404 Ill.App.3d 1130 (Ill.App. 4th Dist. 2010) was used as support for the verdict form because the injuries from the auto crash where there was admitted liability and those from the claimed medical malpractice were two separate and distinct causes. The court divided the two claims. So the plaintiff’s attorney had the burden to prove medical negligence, whereas the claim against the driver, R.A., was admitted. Because of the different cases, the normal laws of joint and several liability among the defendants didn’t apply. That is because there were essentially two separate cases against two different sets of defendants.
Joint and several liability in Illinois, 735 ILCS 5/2-1117, provides that a defendant found to be less than 25% at fault for the cause of a plaintiff’s injuries is jointly and severally liable for the plaintiff’s medical expenses but is severally liable for all other damages. If a defendant is found more than 25% at fault, that defendant would be jointly and severally liable for all of the plaintiff’s damages. In this case, because the claims against the defendants were different, the law of joint and several liability would not apply.
The jury completed the verdict forms assessing damages related to the pressure ulcer against both R.A. and Rockford Memorial Hospital, but it attributed liability 100% against R.A. and 0% against Rockford Memorial.
The $1,300,706 jury verdict was against the drunk driver, R.A., and no verdict against Quad City Downs. The damages as to R.A. were made up of the following:
• $857,863 for damages resulting from motor vehicle collision itemized as $577,863 for past medical expenses;
• $90,000 for pain and suffering;
• $40,000 for disfigurement;
• $150,000 for loss of normal life;
• $292,844 for injuries suffered as a result of the pressure ulcer or bed sore;
• $0 for pain and suffering;
• $0 for disfigurement;
• $0 for loss of normal life; and
• $150,000 to the wife of L.M. for loss of consortium.
The attorney for the Estate of L.M. was Matthew M. Rundio.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling serious personal injury matters and has provided services in medical negligence cases for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago (Rogers Park), Chicago (Canaryville), Blue Island, Harvey, Bridgeview, Forest Park, Bensenville and Clarendon Hills, Illinois.
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