Articles Posted in Illinois Civil Procedure

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.
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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.
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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.

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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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