A neuropathologist, Dr. Meena Gujrati, and her employer, Central Illinois Pathology, were named as defendants in a medical-malpractice lawsuit brought by Rebecca Gapinski who alleged that this doctor misdiagnosed Daniel Gapinski’s brain tumor as being benign.
Right before the start of the jury trial, Dr. Gujrati requested permission to proceed with a substitution of counsel. The attorneys for the Gapinski family objected, arguing that the motion was tardy because the case had been pending for three years. However, the Gapinski family accepted a compromise, and the trial judge ruled that the defendants could have separate counsel, separate pleadings and separate experts if they were otherwise barred from double-teaming at trial.
The verdict for Gapinski was $1,727,409. On appeal, Dr. Gujrati and Central Illinois Pathology argued, among other things, that the judge erred in barring “dual representation.”
In affirming the trial judge’s ruling and upholding this verdict, Illinois Appellate Court Justice Mary K. O’Brien explained:
“The trial court considered that allowing both Gujrati and CIP [Central Illinois Pathology] to present opening and closing statements and question witnesses would be redundant and unnecessary and would prejudice Rebecca [Gapinski]. The trial court noted that the liability at issue was vicarious as to CIP, and if Gujrati was found liable, CIP was also liable, and conversely, if Gujrati was not liable, CIP would not be liable. They shared a commonality of interest.”
Continuing, the appellate court stated, “Until shortly before trial, the defendants were represented by the same law firm. After Gujrati was allowed new counsel, the defendants filed independent pleadings until the trial started. At trial, each defendant was allowed to present its own expert witnesses and to question them. They were barred only from both participating at the same time and were not denied a fair trial.”
The appeals panel stated that it would not be unusual, in a situation where the parties’ litigation interests are nominally the same, for the judge to place some reasonable limitations on the parties regarding trial participation, subject to due process concerns. The decisions made by a trial judge in overseeing his or her courtroom or in maintaining the progress of a trial are generally reviewed for an abuse of discretion.
Illinois Rule of Evidence 611 sets out the basic principle that the trial court has the authority to control all aspects of a trial, including the order of presentation of evidence and the manner in which the proceedings will be conducted in general. In addition, under Illinois Rule of Evidence 403, evidence can be excluded based on consideration of undue delay, waste of time or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.
In this case, the trial judge reasoned that to allow multiple arguments would have been redundant and unnecessary given the nature of the case, since Dr. Gujrati was found liable, then Central Illinois Pathology would also be found liable based on the principles of vicarious liability. The defendants had a commonality of interest in the defense.
Defendants in the instant case have failed to point to any evidence or argument that they were prevented from introducing at the trial. The defendants simply did not show they were prejudiced in any manner. Thus, for those reasons, the appeals panel affirmed the verdict of the jury and the trial court’s decisions.
Gapinski v. Gujrati, 2016 IL App (3d) 150502 (April 24, 2017).
Kreisman Law Offices has been successfully handling medical malpractice lawsuits, wrongful death cases, birth trauma injury lawsuits, brain injury cases and hospital negligence lawsuits for individuals, families and loved one who have been injured, harmed or killed by the negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Des Plaines, Schiller Park, Arlington Heights, Inverness, Lyons, Lansing, Mundelein, Wheeling and Buffalo Grove, Ill.