Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Dismissal of Case Based on Qualifications of Medical Expert

A medical malpractice lawsuit was filed by Beverly Coote on behalf of her mother, Phyllis Brevitz, against Dr. Robert A. Miller and Midwest Orthopaedics Consultants S.C. The issue in the case was whether the Coote’s expert had enough credibility to testify at trial. The trial judge ruled that Coote’s expert was inadequate and granted summary judgment in favor of Dr. Miller and Midwest Orthopaedics Consultants.

However, on appeal to the 1st District Appellate Court, the ruling was reversed finding that Coote’s medical expert, Dr. William C. Daniels, met the necessary qualifications to testify in this case.

“Based [on] our review of the record, we find that Dr. Daniels possesses the requisite knowledge and familiarity with the methods, procedures and treatment in this case to provide expert testimony.”

As a result of the appellate court’s decision, the case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.

On Nov. 24, 2013, Beverly Brevitz, a 69-year-old bus driver, fell while exiting her bus. She injured her knees as well as her right hip and thigh. In early December 2013, Brevitz sought treatment from Dr. Miller and Midwest Orthopaedics. Despite her medical treatment, Brevitz continued to experience severe “vice-like” pain in her groin and right thigh. Dr. Miller attributed Brevitz’s pain to the fall she experienced.

On Jan. 22, 2014, she was rushed to the emergency room at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., where she was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism.

The embolism occurred when the deep-vein thrombosis, a blood clot in a deep vein in her thigh, was dislodged and traveled to her lungs. She was prescribed an anticoagulant medication, but she died six days later.

The Coote lawsuit included Dr. Miller and Midwest Orthopaedics as defendants claiming medical-malpractice, alleging that Dr. Miller chose not to recognize and treat Brevitz for the thrombosis.

In a medical-malpractice lawsuit, a plaintiff needs to have an expert testify that the defending physician allegedly provided inadequate medical care that caused injury or death to the patient. This expert needed to meet two qualifications: he or she needed to have a valid medical license and must be familiar with the medical issues in the case in question.

Coote recruited Dr. Daniels, a board-certified orthopedic specialist. In his discovery deposition, Dr. Daniels stated that he retired from practicing active medicine in 1995 due to his own medical issues. In 2003 Dr. Daniels opened his own consulting business. Five years later, he began practicing medicine again one day per week at a clinic.

From 1995 to 2008, Dr. Daniels testified, he kept abreast of the medical developments in orthopedics by reading and attending educational seminars.

Dr. Daniels testified that since the mid-1980s, he had not directly treated people with deep-vein thrombosis; he referred them to specialists who would be better able to care for these patients. However, Dr. Daniels added that treating deep-vein thrombosis had not changed since the mid-1980s and that Dr. Miller had previously treated Brevitz for that condition in 2000.

Dr. Miller and Midwest Orthopaedics sought to bock Dr. Daniels’ testimony, arguing that he did not have experience to testify on these issues. The defendants pointed out that he has not treated patients since the 1980s. Defendants also noted that Dr. Daniels was not practicing medicine when Brevitz died in 2014.

The trial court agreed with Dr. Miller and Midwest Orthopaedics barring Dr. Daniels’ testimony in December 2014. The defendants then sought summary judgment saying Coote did not have a case without a medical expert. Ultimately, the trial judge granted summary judgment to defendants, Dr. Miller and Midwest Orthopaedics, in January 2015.

The Illinois Appellate Court for the 1st District noted that trial courts enjoy wide discretion when granting or denying motions in limine, the method in which the defendants barred Dr. Daniels’ testimony.

However, the 1st District panel found that the trial court abused its discretion in barring Dr. Daniels’ testimony because he met the two requirements an expert needs to meet in order to testify in a medical-malpractice case.

According to the appellate court opinion, “Although defendants argued that Dr. Daniels has not actively diagnosed and treated DVT [deep-vein thrombosis] patients with anticoagulation medicine since the 1980s, we note that based on the literature plaintiff submitted with no offer of proof, DVT is a basic medical condition and its diagnosis and treatment has not changed in 30 years.”

In addition, it was stated by the appeals panel that Dr. Daniels’ testimony showed that he “remained eminently familiar” with DVT and how to treat it.

Because the decision here dealt with the bar to Dr. Daniels’ testimony to the motion for summary judgment, the appeals panel reversed the summary judgment finding as well as the motion in limine barring Dr. Daniels’ ability to testify.  Accordingly, the case will proceed in the trial court as directed by the appeals panel decision.

Beverly Coote, et al. v. Midwest Orthopaedics Consultants, S.C., et al., 2016 IL App (1st) 150301-U.

Kreisman Law Offices has been successfully handling medical negligence lawsuits, wrongful death cases, birth trauma injury cases and hospital negligence cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Rolling Meadows, Bridgeview, Bensenville, Deerfield, Frankfort, Palatine, Palos Heights, Flossmoor, Hinsdale, St. Charles, Aurora, Joliet, Elgin, Mundelein and Lake Forest, Ill.

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