Articles Posted in Illinois Civil Procedure

This lawsuit arose out of a wrongful-death and medical malpractice case brought by the plaintiff, Lawanda Freeman. She was the special administrator of the estate of her deceased husband, Terrance Freeman. In her complaint against the defendant, Gayle R. Crays, M.D., she alleged that Dr. Crays was negligent in the treatment of Terrance’s cardiovascular disease and that negligence was the proximate cause of Terrance’s death. Right before the trial was set to start, the trial judge ruled that Freeman’s only expert witness was unqualified to offer any opinions on the issue of causation, thus creating a fatal evidentiary gap in the plaintiff’s case.

In response to the trial judge’s ruling barring this expert witness, Freeman moved to voluntarily dismiss her complaint. The trial judge granted the voluntary dismissal without prejudice.

Shortly thereafter, Freeman refiled her complaint. Upon learning that Freeman intended to disclose an additional or new medical expert witness to offer opinions on the issue of causation, Dr. Crays’ lawyers moved to adopt the rulings from the earlier case and bar any testimony of plaintiff’s newly disclosed expert opinion pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 219(e).
Continue reading

The Illinois Appellate Court has ruled that Judith Simpkins’s amended complaint against St. Elizabeth’s Hospital was not timed-barred. The Illinois Appellate Court denounced discovery that includes the series of “routine practices” including boilerplate objections and “dump truck disclosures” as amounting to a “misuse of the discovery process” that “should not be accepted by our trial courts.”

A dissent was filed by Justice Richard P. Goldenhersh who said that the majority’s directions “invade the discretionary province of the trial court in determining discovery disputes. The circuit court on remand is perfectly capable of resolving these and similar discovery disputes without appellate mandate predetermining the exercise of their discretion.”

The appeals panel majority stated that discovery is not a tactical game, but rather a procedural tool for ascertainment of truth for purposes of promoting either a fair trial or a fair settlement. Ostendorf v. International Harvester, 89 Ill.2d 273 (1982). The Illinois Supreme Court rules regarding discovery represent our Supreme Court’s best efforts to manage the complex and important process of discovery. Sullivan v. Edward Hospital, 209 Ill.2d 100 (2004).
Continue reading

In an unfortunate suicide by Keith Stanphill, a lawsuit was brought by Zachary Stanphill against a social worker, Lori Ortberg, and the hospital with which she was affiliated. She saw Keith Stanphill at Rockford Memorial Hospital just nine days before his suicide. Ortberg is a licensed clinical social worker.

During the jury instruction conference, the defendants requested and were granted leave to submit to the jury a special interrogatory. The special interrogatory followed the format approved by the Illinois Appellate Court in Garcia v. Seneca Nursing Home, 2011 IL App (1st) 103085.

The special interrogatory asked: “Was it reasonably foreseeable to Lori Ortberg on Sept. 30, 2005 that Keith Stanphill would commit suicide on or before Oct. 9, 2005?”
Continue reading

In October 2016, we reported about this important case on the Illinois law on relation-back and how it applies in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In the underlying case of Sheri Lawler, as administrator who sued on behalf of Jill Prusak, the University of Chicago Medical Center and Advocate Christ Hospital and some doctors for medical malpractice in 2011, it was claimed that the doctors and the hospitals misdiagnosed Prusak’s central nervous system lymphoma. She unfortunately died in November 2013 while the case was still pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill.

The ultimate question in this Supreme Court case was whether an amended complaint was time-barred under the four-year statute of repose; 735 ILCS 5/13-212. While the case was pending, Lawler’s daughter, Jill Prusak, brought the case on behalf of her mother’s estate and asked the court to add a wrongful-death claim to the lawsuit. The Circuit Court judge rejected the motion and denied the Lawler family to amend the complaint saying it was time-barred under the four-year statute of repose.

However, the Illinois Appellate Court for the 1st District reversed that decision under the premise of the “amendments” or relation-back statute; 735 ILCS 5/2-616. The defendants appealed that decision to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Continue reading

A decision by a McHenry County, Ill., trial court dismissing the medical malpractice lawsuit on the grounds of res judicata bar on claim-splitting has been reversed by the Illinois Appellate Court. In this medical negligence lawsuit, the trial judge erroneously determined that only an express agreement from defendants could satisfy the “agreement in effect” exception to claim-splitting. The defendants’ lawyers, just before the jury trial would have started, implied that they would not object to a refiling by plaintiff as defense counsel suggested in that refiling was a method to preserve the plaintiff’s lawsuit without associated costs.

In 2008, the plaintiff Robert Kantner filed a multi-count medical malpractice lawsuit against defendants Ladonna Jo Waugh, M.D., Mercy Health System Corp., Mercy Harvard Hospital Inc., Mercy Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and Mercy Alliance Inc. Kantner’s lawsuit was based on permanent injuries he alleged he suffered following bariatric surgery. His lawsuit in different counts alleged (1) informed consent and (2) negligence.

In 2009, the defendants moved to dismiss the informed-consent claim and the trial court granted that motion. Kantner and his lawyers proceeded to trial on the negligence claim. Thus, the plaintiff spit off one count of his complaint leaving the other count to proceed.
Continue reading

After the jury found in favor of the treating physician, an appeal was taken by Zbigniew Adwent arguing that he was entitled to present testimony from a forensic document examiner in the lawsuit he brought against Dr. Richard B. Novak. The lawsuit alleged that Dr. Novak chose not to properly treat Adwent for back pain and other ailments. The Illinois Appellate Court for the First District stated that the examiner’s opinion that a page was missing from Adwent’s chart was conjecture.

“Mr. Adwent’s counsel clearly intended to use that testimony to suggest that Mr. Adwent’s medical records had perhaps been altered to cover the doctor’s inappropriate treatment of his patient.” The appeals panel also stated: “Such a use of this testimony would be completely speculative and highly prejudicial.”

The appeals panel also ruled that Adwent’s claim that the trial judge should have instructed the jury on contributory negligence also did not hold up because there was no reason to think doing so would have had any impact on the jury.
Continue reading

This case arrived at the Illinois Appellate Court as an interlocutory appeal that came about from the plaintiff Eric Owens’s lawsuit against the defendant hospital, Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital, and its doctors related to the care received by Owens at the hospital’s emergency room in 2011. He initially named Dr. Ahmed Raziuddin as a defendant in the lawsuit as the physician who treated him in the emergency room based on Dr. Raziuddin’s name appearing in the hospital’s records as the treating physician.

However, it turns out that Dr. Raziuddin filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit claiming that he was not the doctor treating Owens and that a Dr. Seema Elahi was actually the treating physician. That motion was granted.

Owens then amended his complaint adding Dr. Elahi as a party defendant replacing Dr. Raziuddin. Dr. Elahi then filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the statute of limitations had expired.

Continue reading

Plaintiff Donald Brier brought a cause of action against a practice group and an orthopedic surgeon, Greater Hartford Orthopedic Group P.C., and David Kruger, MD, an orthopedic surgeon (collectively, Defendants), alleging medical malpractice arising out of a spinal surgery that went bad.

After the running of the applicable statute of limitations, Brier sought to amend his complaint. Both the original complaint and the amended version alleged that Dr. Kruger and his medical group chose not to plan and use an instrument that could have been utilized. The original complaint alleged the misuse of a skull clamp during the surgery.

Brier’s amended complaint included allegations of the improper use of a retractor blade. The trial court narrowly construed the original complaint as limited to a claim of the negligent usage of the skull clamp and denied Brier’s request to amend his complaint.
Continue reading

The Illinois Appellate Court has ruled that the guardians of a seriously injured student football player must include a supporting statement from a health care professional to proceed with the case. The guardians had claimed in a lawsuit that a physical and sports-injury therapist provided improper care that caused or exasperated the student’s injuries. Under Illinois’ Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/2-622, the Healing Art Malpractice section, “…a plaintiff shall file an affidavit, attached to the original and all copies of the complaint…”

In the court’s opinion, the three-judge panel found that Illinois law requires the “622” affidavit from a health care expert in a suit alleging medical malpractice and that failure to do so is grounds for dismissal. However, this case is murky because an Athletico Ltd. athletic trainer hired by the public school system is not a traditional medical professional, according to the ruling.

Jodine Williams and Christopher Williams, the guardians of Drew Williams, who suffered a concussion in a football game and then continued to play, filed the suit. Drew Williams became disabled following the injury. Their suit was dismissed. The court ruled that the Williams’ suit should not have been dismissed. The appeals court said in remanding the case that the guardians should have a reasonable chance to file the 622 affidavit along with an amended complaint.

Continue reading

In this medical negligence case, the Illinois Appellate Court took an interlocutory appeal on an issue of first impression regarding the application of the Petrillo doctrine on a unique set of facts. The plaintiff, Jacqueline McChristian, who was injured by a podiatrist, Dale Brink, DPM, claimed that the trial court violated the Petrillo doctrine when it permitted ex parte communications between McChristian’s treating podiatrist and the defense counsel of Performance Foot and Ankle Center LLC, which was a defendant in the case in which the treating podiatrist is a member.

The court was asked to answer a question of first impression that was whether defense counsel, who represents the defendant Dr. Dale Brink and the defendant Performance Foot and Ankle LLC, is prohibited from conducting ex parte communications with McChristian’s treating podiatrist, Dr. Timothy Krygsheld, who is also a member, and in the control group of the defendant.

The plaintiff argued that under the Petrillo doctrine, ex parte communications are barred between plaintiff’s treating podiatrist and defense counsel, in order to preserve the patient’s trust and confidence in her podiatrist, as well as to honor the podiatrist’s duty as a fiduciary to refrain from helping the patient’s legal adversary.
Continue reading