Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

Michael Mills was 28 and had a history of smoking and borderline hypertension. He experienced chest pain for a year. He had seen a cardiologist, Dr. Hassan Kassamali, who ordered an echocardiogram, which was shown to be normal.

Mills had two additional appointments with Dr. Kassamali for his continued symptoms of chest pain, but the physician ordered no further tests.

About three weeks after his last cardiology appointment, Mills suffered a fatal cardiac arrest. The autopsy revealed triple-vessel coronary artery disease. Mills is survived by his parents and a minor son.
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Ezekiel Flores, 89, was admitted to MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, Ill., in January 2013 for complaints of leg pain. While he was there, an abdominal CT scan came back with abnormal results, which led the doctors to suspect possible colon cancer over diverticulitis.

The defendant gastroenterologist, Dr. Manuel Alva, did a colonoscopy on Jan. 11, 2013. It showed there was no cancer. However, during the procedure Flores sustained a perforated colon, which led to nearly fatal sepsis, a colostomy for eleven months and later a colonostomy reversal surgery in combination totaled medical expenses of $201,950.

Flores maintained at this jury trial that he refused to undergo the colonoscopy several times but the defendants, the physicians, persisted and persuaded him to do so without fully disclosing the risks and alternatives and thus choosing not to obtain Flores’s informed consent.
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Rose Newsome received treatment at the University of Illinois Hospital on March 12, 1995 when she alleged that she sustained a brain injury caused by medical negligence. Newsome and her husband, Hatler, hired attorney Zane Smith and his law firm to represent both of them in a medical malpractice lawsuit against the University of Illinois Hospital and several doctors who were involved in her treatment.

The attorney hired Dr. Bruce Livingston to serve as a consulting medical expert to assist with the Newsomes’ case. Dr. Livingston presented a medical consultation agreement that he had drafted and had signed by Smith and the Newsomes whereby Dr. Livingston would have a lien for the total amount of his fees plus any needed attorney fees.

Dr. Livingston was to be paid directly by the attorneys unless ordered otherwise by the court. Should his fee go unpaid, “the parties authorize Livingston to take a default judgment against them for his entire fee plus costs, interest and attorney fees.”
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Mary and Terry Cohan filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Medical Imaging Consultants claiming that the company and its medical providers were negligent in the treatment that caused Mary’s breast cancer to progress undiagnosed for one year. It was alleged that the delay in diagnosis led to her suffering damages from a shortened life expectancy and physical and mental suffering.

The medical defendants moved for a directed verdict at the end of the Cohan case at the jury trial on the basis that plaintiffs failed to make a prima facie case of causation and damages against the defendant. The elements of a medical negligence claim, like all negligence claims are: duty, breach of duty, causation and damages.

The district court judge granted the defendants’ motion, concluding that there was no sufficient proof of damage or causation other than the loss of chance of a lower rate of non-recurrence of cancer, which did not constitute a proper measure of damage at the time.
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In 2009, Gary Williamson was a postal worker who sought damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for medical malpractice on the part of the Department of Veteran Affairs in the treatment of injuries he suffered in his right foot. Williamson usually worked a walking route, walking up to 8 miles each day on the job. He was also doing other physical activities, including running and CrossFit, which could have contributed to the severity of his injury.

Because of his injuries, Williamson eventually received benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA): $79,379.66 in temporary total disability net compensation from March 20, 2010 through Oct. 25, 2012; $27,801.27 for medical expenses; and $19,974.19 as a lump-sum “scheduled award.” This federal statute is the federal law for workers injured on the job. This is the federal version of the workers’ compensation act that most states have, including Illinois.

In addition to the benefits he was receiving by way of FECA, Williamson sought damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act for medical malpractice by the V.A. for the treatment of his injuries, which included two unsuccessful surgeries. The U.S. District Court judge denied the government’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed that order, denying the motion for summary judgment.
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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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The Florida Supreme Court has struck down a state law that capped noneconomic damages in medical malpractice injury lawsuits that stood at $1 million. The high court found that the law violates the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution.

In this 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the Fourth District Court of Appeals’ 2015 decision that found that the cap, established by Florida statute, does not pass the rational basis test because the law arbitrarily reduces medical malpractice claimants’ rights to full compensation when there are multiple claimants and because it “does not bear a rational relationship” to its stated purpose of addressing an alleged medical malpractice insurance crisis in the state.

The decision relied heavily on the Florida Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Estate of McAll v. United States that struck down the cap on noneconomic damages in wrongful death cases for many of the same reasons.
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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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In 2011, Sean Elliott filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Resurgens P.C. and Dr. Tapan Daftaria. The lawsuit alleged that Elliott ended up with paralysis because treating physician Dr. Tapan Daftaria chose not to timely diagnose and treat an abscess in Elliott’s thoracic spine.

During the jury trial, he attempted to call Savannah Sullivan, a nurse. She was not identified as a potential witness in Elliott’s written discovery responses or in the parties’ pre-trial order.

The trial judge excluded Sullivan as a witness. After the jury returned a defense verdict for Resurgens and Dr. Daftaria, Elliott appealed to the court of appeals arguing that the trial judge’s exclusion of Sullivan was an error. The court of appeals in Georgia agreed, reversing the jury’s verdict and remanding the case for a new trial.
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Gerald Teeuwen, 77, developed a persistent cough. He went to an urgent care facility and later underwent a chest x-ray, which was interpreted as showing a density in his left lung. Teeuwen was referred to a pulmonologist, Dr. Peter Birk.

Dr. Birk ordered a second chest x-ray, which radiologist Dr. Jack Lowdon read as normal. Dr. Lowdon did not compare the two films, which had not been provided to him. The following year, Teeuwen was diagnosed as having Stage IV lung cancer with metastasis to his brain and bones. He was unable to tolerate his chemotherapy and brain radiotherapy treatments. Teeuwen died of lung cancer four months later. He was survived by his wife and two adult children.

Teeuwen’s wife, on behalf of his estate and family, sued Drs. Birk and Lowdon alleging their negligence in choosing not to timely diagnose lung cancer. The Teeuwen family alleged that both physicians should have reviewed the first chest x-ray and that Dr. Lowdon had misread the second study. If Teeuwen would have received an earlier diagnosis, the family and the estate argued, he would have had a chance for cure and survival.
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