Articles Posted in Firm News

In a recent article appearing in the Harvard Law Record, the title of the article says it all: “Civil Trials Are Fast Becoming Extinct.”  Civil jury trials and bench trials have seen a dramatic decline since 1986. This trend has followed in both state and federal courts and includes criminal cases as well.

The article, written by Frank J. Riccio D.M.D., J.D., wrote that there are no reasons why civil jury trials have become so infrequent. Some say that the Rules of Civil Procedure have encouraged lawyers and clients to engage in pretrial discovery in attempts to settle cases rather than prepare cases for trial. The trend began in the late 1980s when liberal discovery rules went into effect, although the decline began years before.  Nothing particular happened that made trying jury cases more expensive than in the past.

The jury trial decline in federal courts coincides with the Supreme Court’s 1986 decisions instructing trial courts to grant summary judgments unless the plaintiff proves the probability of the allegations.

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In Illinois, legislation has been passed three times to limit recoveries in medical negligence claims. Each time the Illinois Supreme Court has overturned such restrictions on the ground that they are unconstitutional. Missouri is going through the same exercise once again. About ten years ago, Missouri last limited some civil lawsuit awards, but the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the legislation.

Now businesses can face lawsuits with unlimited punitive damages and civil injury lawsuits after the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a $500,000 limit on awards in September 2014, two years after striking down other limits for medical-malpractice awards.

It has been reported that business groups and Republican leaders there want the decision striking down limits for medical-malpractice rewards to be reversed and now are attempting a state constitutional amendment to ensure the court cannot interfere with caps again. “Missouri will continue to be a judicial hellhole” if caps are not put in place, said Senate Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard of Joplin, Mo. Richard says his constitutional amendment effort capping punitive damages is his top priority for the current senate session.

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Physicians should be aware that patients can use their smart phones or other electronic devices to tape alleged malpractice or negligence and introduce this evidence at trial. The presiding judge will determine whether the videotape may be presented.

Videotape, audiotape, and/or photographs can be introduced at trial if a proper foundation is laid and the subject matter is relevant, according to Robert Kreisman, JD, medical malpractice and personal injury attorney with Kreisman Law Offices in Chicago.
Kreisman was quoted in a recent issue of ED Legal Letter.

“To inform the jury, videotape could be introduced to give time and place. On the other hand, it depends on the quality of the videotape and what it depicts,” says Kreisman.

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According to a recent survey in the Journal of the American Medical Association, male physicians age 55 or older are twice as likely to be sued for medical negligence as younger women doctors. This survey and other similar findings are the basis of a recent program on Radio Health Journal – “Do Women Make Better Doctors?”
In order to get the perspective of the legal community on whether or not females in fact make better doctors, Radio Health Journal interviewed Chicago medical malpractice attorney Robert Kreisman. Kreisman explained that in his experience, most medical malpractice lawsuits arise out of a failure to communicate between the patient and physician. While sometimes this communication failure might simply result in the patient feeling negatively about his medical care, in other instances it could lead to a misdiagnosis or medical negligence.

Kreisman generalizes that “most times that I’ve heard from potential clients about a physician that they feel chose not to communicate well with the patient or family, it tends to be a male.” However, the show also suggests that perhaps more male doctors are being sued not because women are necessarily better doctors, but for other reasons. For example, traditionally men have dominated high-risk medical fields, such as surgery or obstetrics, while women have generally remained in fields that don’t get sued as often, like pediatrics or family practice.

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As a Chicago medical malpractice attorney I have seen all sides of human nature – the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, on a rare occasion I am inspired by clients’ reactions to a personal tragedy. The Mary E. Smith family are just such clients. They responded to their mother’s unnecessary death due to medical negligence by setting up a foundation to raise brain tumor awareness and honor their mother’s memory.

In addition to providing the public with health information regarding brain tumors, the Mary E. Smith Foundation awards several annual scholarships. The Mary E. Smith Foundation is now adding to their community outreach goals with its 1st Annual Mary E. Smith Tumor Awareness Walk. The walk details are as follows:

When: Saturday, August 14, 2010. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., with the walk starting at 9:00 a.m.

Where: The Community Walk Path, 4200 W. 183rd St., Country Club Hills, IL 60478. (Next to the Farmer’s Market at the Country Club Hills Theater)

Cost: $10 for 1-mile walk and free T-shirt (children under 12 free)

For more information, visit www.maryesmithfoundation.org or call 708-342-0800.

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