Illinois Appellate Court Affirms General Verdict Rule in Jury Trial Without Special Interrogatories

The Illinois Appellate Court for the First District affirmed the decision of a Cook County judge with respect to a jury verdict. In 2014, Jesse Perez, as independent executor of the Estate of Marilyn Medina Perez, filed this lawsuit against St. Alexius Medical Center, Jeffrey E. Chung M.D., Christopher Michael M.D., and Suburban Women’s Health Specialist Ltd., among other defendants.

At trial, only claims against these four named defendants were considered.

Marilyn Perez died from metastatic pelvic abdominal cancer seven months after giving birth to twins by cesarean section.

The jury returned a general verdict against Dr. Michael and Suburban Women’s Health for $25 million and found that Dr. Chung was not an apparent agent of St. Alexius.

Dr. Michael and Suburban Women’s Health were dismissed shortly after with prejudice based on their $1 million settlement.

The Perez estate filed a post-trial motion and a petition to issue a rule to show cause against Dr. Chung, alleging that Dr. Chung committed perjury based on his testimony in another case. In Newberry v. Iza, No. 14 L 7734, Dr. Chung testified that in interpreting ultrasound he reviewed requisition forms detailing previous examinations. When questioned about his review of Perez’s ultrasound and finding no ovarian mass in this trial, Dr. Chung testified he never looked at requisition forms in interpreting ultrasound images. The petition was denied by the trial court. The Perez estate appealed.

On appeal, Perez challenged several decisions by the trial court, including insufficient evidence to find that Dr. Chung did not proximately cause Marilyn’s death, refusing to give a modified jury instruction, barring him from using Chung’s Rule 213(f) disclosure, barring certain issues from the examination of Chung, and in striking his petition for adjudication of criminal contempt.

Dr. Chung asserted that the general verdict rule precluded the Perez estate from establishing reversible error. The general verdict rule provides that a general verdict without special interrogatories will not be disturbed if two or more determinative issues or theories are presented and there is evidence to support at least one of the issues of theories that is free from prejudicial error.

The appellate court agreed with Dr. Chung, noting that the jury could have found for Dr. Chung, because he did not proximately cause Marilyn Perez’s death, or because he did not breach his duty of care, and could have found for St. Alexius based on either of those previous reasons or because it found that Dr. Chung was not an apparent agent of St. Alexius.

The appellate court emphasized that Perez raised no contentions of error regarding proximate causation, and that the appellate panel must assume that the jury found in favor of Dr. Chung with respect to the valid basis of no proximate cause.

Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the decision of the circuit court.

Jesse Perez v. St. Alexius Medical Center, Jeffrey E. Chung, M.D., et al., 2022 IL App (1st) 181882, April 8, 2022.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling birth trauma injury lawsuits, birth injury cases, medical negligence lawsuits, misdiagnosis of cancer lawsuits, and wrongful death cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 45 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Berkeley, Maywood, Forest Park, Franklin Park, Schiller Park, Morton Grove, Wilmette, Evanston, Skokie, Lincolnwood, Niles, Harvey, Country Club Hills, Olympia Fields, Chicago Heights, Sauk Village, Calumet City, Chicago (Hyde Park, Avalon Park, Calumet Heights, Grand Boulevard, Canaryville, Bridgeport, McKinley Park, Homan Square, Near West Side, Little Italy, Ukrainian Village, North Center, North Halsted, Irving Park, Hollywood Park), Des Plaines, Roselle, Glendale Heights, Carol Stream, and Winfield, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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