Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Trial Court Order Barring Expert Testimony in Medical Malpractice Case

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.

This lawsuit was first filed in 2012 claiming that Dr. Novak was liable for medical negligence two years after Adwent went to Dr. Novak’s office complaining of back pain. Adwent claimed at trial that Dr. Novak did not tell him to go to the hospital or to refer him to a specialist, but instead gave him medication and told him to come back if he didn’t feel better.

Dr. Novak disputed this claim, saying he did tell Adwent to go to the hospital. The jury found that Adwent had been to the hospital for his back pain two days before visiting Dr. Novak, but left against medical advice because he could not afford the MRI that the hospital recommended.

Dr. Novak saw Adwent again a few days after his first visit, with Adwent claiming that Dr. Novak did not refer him to a specialist or advised him to go to the hospital. Dr. Novak claimed he did recommend that Adwent go to the hospital, but that Adwent refused.

A few days after the second visit to Dr. Novak’s office, Adwent’s condition was reported to have worsened. He was admitted to the hospital in septic shock and other medical problems that left him hospitalized for two months. The jury entered a verdict in Dr. Novak’s favor in 2015 and Adwent’s motion for a new trial was denied.

The appeals court noted that the forensic document examiner admitted at trial that there were no possible explanations for the marks of a missing page. James Hayes, the forensic document examiner, admitted that he could not say the writing was Dr. Novak’s or that the page concerned Adwent. Moreover, despite the fact that the forensic document examiner said it was his opinion a page was missing, he was more circumspect in his answer while under oath than during his deposition.

As such, the appeals panel ruled that the trial court was correct to bar the Hayes’ testimony since it was more likely to prejudice the jury than offer valuable insight. Accordingly, the appeals panel affirmed the trial judge’s rulings and the entry of the jury’s verdict. The appellate court’s written opinion is governed by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23(e)(1) and thus may not be cited as precedent by any party.

Zbigniew Adwent v. Richard B. Novak, M.D., 2017 IL App (1st) 160683-U (May 22, 2017)

Kreisman Law Offices has been successfully handling medical malpractice cases, birth trauma injury cases, hospital negligence cases, misdiagnosis of disease or illness cases and nursing home abuse cases for individuals, families and loved ones 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 communities, including Park Ridge, Wilmette, Evanston, Niles, Skokie, Elmhurst, Itasca, Elk Grove Village, Countryside, Country Club Hills, Hickory Hills, Chicago Ridge, Alsip, Blue Island, Bedford Park, Forest Park, Crestwood, Franklin Park, Schiller Park, Chicago (Polish Village, Marquette Park, Pilsen, Little Italy, West Town, Greek Town, Goose Island, Wicker Park, North Center, Lincoln Square, Albany Park, Andersonville, Bronzeville), Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn, Ill.

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