Articles Posted in Illinois Civil Procedure

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.
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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.

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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.
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A medical malpractice lawsuit was filed by Beverly Coote on behalf of her mother, Phyllis Brevitz, against Dr. Robert A. Miller and Midwest Orthopaedics Consultants S.C. The issue in the case was whether the Coote’s expert had enough credibility to testify at trial. The trial judge ruled that Coote’s expert was inadequate and granted summary judgment in favor of Dr. Miller and Midwest Orthopaedics Consultants.

However, on appeal to the 1st District Appellate Court, the ruling was reversed finding that Coote’s medical expert, Dr. William C. Daniels, met the necessary qualifications to testify in this case.

“Based [on] our review of the record, we find that Dr. Daniels possesses the requisite knowledge and familiarity with the methods, procedures and treatment in this case to provide expert testimony.”
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A bench trial brought by the mother of 12-year-old Akeem Manago resulted in a $200,000 judgement in favor of Akeem. The case was brought by Akeem’s mother, April Pritchett. Akeem suffered permanent scars, pain and suffering and loss of normal life resulting in this judgment. Akeem was treated for his burns at Cook County’s Stroger Hospital, which accumulated $79,572 in bills. In the bench trial judgment, there was no award for medical expenses, although the hospital bills were presented to the judge by stipulation of the parties.

Pritchett faced liability for Akeem’s hospital bills under the Family Expense Statute. However, the court ruled that the defendants in the case were not liable for health-care damages because “no evidence was adduced to establish that April Pritchett had any expectation that she had to pay any of the $79,572 back to Stroger Hospital.”

The county nevertheless asserted a hospital lien against the $200,000 judgment based on Section 10(a) of the Health Care Services Lien Act.
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Mary McNair had knee replacement surgery at Rush University Medical Center. The surgery did not go as expected and left her with permanent injuries. On April 8, 2014, she filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Rush University Medical Center alleging medical negligence related to the anesthesia and post-anesthesia care. She sought discovery from one of the named respondents in discovery pursuant to the Illinois statute. The respondent in discovery was Dr. Asokumar Buvanendran. The trial judge entered an order requiring written discovery to be answered by July 17, 2014. Dr. Buvanendran filed responses to all of the interrogatories by the date set by the court. Dr. Buvanendran also responded to requests for additional production of documents by the deadline of Aug. 4, 2014.

The trial judge ordered a deposition of Dr. Buvanendran to take place on Sept. 8, 2014. Dr. Buvanendran sat for that deposition as was required.

Two weeks later, McNair filed an emergency motion for “an extension of time to convert respondents in discovery to defendants,” alleging that she needed additional time to complete discovery from other respondents in discovery. Her motion claimed that she needed discovery from these other respondents in order to decide whether she would make Dr. Buvanendran a party defendant.

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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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The family of Jill Prusak brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor and two hospitals. Prusak died in November 2013. The lawsuit brought by Sheri Lawler on behalf of the family of Jill Prusak was filed in April 2014 within the two-year statute of limitations for a wrongful-death case. The lawsuit contended that the medical malpractice occurred in November 2007 when a doctor “failed to order appropriate diagnostic testing,” which would have revealed that Prusak’s symptoms were caused by cancer.

Section 13-212(a) sets out a two-year statute of limitations for medical-malpractice claims and ends by declaring: “But in no event shall such action be brought more than 4 years after the date on which the act or omission or occurrence alleged in such action to have been the cause of such injury or death.”

The lawsuit for medical malpractice was filed in August 2011 within the two-year statute of limitations so the case would continue. Utilizing the relation-back statute (Section 2-616(b)), the Prusak family argued that the complaint saved the wrongful-death claim from the statute of repose.

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Jennifer Lee, 17, was injured during a physical education class at her Naperville North High School. Section 13-211 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedures states that when a minor is injured by a negligent act she will get two years from her 18th birthday to sue. However, in this case, Jennifer Lee was 17 when she was injured.

Section 8-101(a) of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act imposes a one-year deadline for negligence claims against public entities. In the Lee case, Section 13-211 and another case, Bertolis v. Community Unit School District No. 7, 283 Ill.App.3d 874 (1996) where the plaintiff sued the school district and the school board a day before her 20th birthday were persuasive.

In the Bertolis case, Jennifer Bertolis was 15 when she was injured at her high school. She relied on Section 13-211 in suing the district and its board the day before her 20th birthday. In the Illinois Appellate Court’s majority opinion, it was stated, “Because the limiting provisions of the Tort Immunity Act are to be strictly construed against public amendments and the public policy of this state has long favored preserving the meritorious claims of minors, we hold the limitation period of Section 13-211 of the code governs this action.”

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A trial judge in Jackson County, Ill., refused to follow the case law found in Stanton v. Rea, 2012 IL App (5th) 110187 when calculating the amount of the hospital’s lien amount. In the case of Alma McVey, who was injured after a waitress dropped a tray of drinks on her foot, the issue was how much Memorial Hospital-Carbondale would receive for its $2,891 medical services bill still unpaid.

McVey settled her personal-injury case against the waitress’s employer for $7,500. Under Stanton, attorney fees and litigation expenses should have been deducted from the settlement before calculating the hospital’s share of the settlement. The judge in the McVey case ruled that McVey’s attorney was entitled to $2,250; the hospital would receive $2,500 and the remaining $2,750 would go to the plaintiff, McVey.

The Illinois Appellate Court for the 5th District reversed that ruling, concluding that “the trial court erred in refusing to follow Stanton and begin calculations after the settlement has been reduced by attorney fees and costs.”

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