An Illinois medical malpractice verdict in favor of the defendant emergency room physician was upheld by an Illinois Appellate Court. The Illinois medical malpractice complaint in Pavnica v. Veguilla, et al., No. 3-09-0065, alleged that the emergency room doctor’s error had contributed to the amputation of plaintiff’s toes after he developed gangrene.
As a diabetic, the plaintiff was already at a heightened risk for developing foot and toe infections. However, the plaintiff had also recently been placed on immunosuppressive medications following a pancreas and kidney transplant, placing him at an even greater risk for developing infections. Because of his increased risk for developing a foot or toe infection, the plaintiff sought medical assistance when he stubbed his toe on a piece of furniture.
While the plaintiff would normally follow up with his regular physician regarding any potential infection issues, his doctor was out of town. So the plaintiff opted to seek treatment at the emergency room. At that time the plaintiff was seen by the defendant doctor who diagnosed a breakdown of the skin in the area of the injury and prescribed oral antibiotics.
However, the oral antibiotics did not seem to have an effect on the infection and just eight days later the plaintiff returned to the emergency room for further treatment. At that time additional tests were run, but no further medical action was taken. The plaintiff then followed up with his regular physician upon his return. The family physician immediately diagnosed an anaerobic infection and had the plaintiff admitted to the hospital. It was later discovered that the infection had become gangrenous and required an amputation of plaintiff’s toes and a portion of his forefoot.
The plaintiff alleged that his amputation would not have occurred if the emergency room physicians had placed him on anaerobic antibiotics after either of his two separate emergency room visit. However, the jury did not agree and entered a not guilty verdict in favor of the defendant.
In response, plaintiff filed an appeal to the jury’s decision, arguing that the jury had been swayed by testimony by both the defendant physician and one of his experts where they discussed their military service. The plaintiff further contended that the evidence in the emergency room negligence case was so overwhelmingly in his favor that the appellate court would have to overturn the jury verdict.
In Illinois, one of the conditions under which a higher court to overturn a lower court’s decision is if there is overwhelming and clear evidence to point to a specific conclusion. While the plaintiff attempted to argue that this concept should be applied in his case the appellate court did not agree. Instead it state quite clearly that “the jury simply resolved disputed issues in defendants’ favor”, which was reasonable based on the evidence.
As to the issue regarding testimony of military service, the appellate court felt that this testimony did not prejudice the jury. Therefore the judge’s ruling on the military service testimony was no more than “harmless error” and therefore not grounds to overturn the jury verdict. Therefore, the court found that the circuit court had ruled appropriately and that the verdict would stand.
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