Illinois Supreme Court Reverses Appellate Court and Affirms Trial Court in Medical Malpractice Case Regarding Pattern Jury Instruction

On appeal from a trial court decision, the Illinois Appellate Court answered that the circuit court abused its discretion and denied the plaintiff a fair trial by refusing to issue a non-pattern jury instruction. The instruction was about the loss of chance doctrine and a pattern jury instruction on informed consent in a wrongful death and medical malpractice case.

The appellate court answered that question in the affirmative and reversed the circuit court’s judgment in part and remanded the case for a new trial against certain defendants. However, on appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, the appellate court was reversed in part and affirmed the circuit court’s judgment in its entirety.

This case involved the death of Joe M. Milton-Hampton; his case was brought by Joe M. Bailey, administrator of the estate. The medical malpractice case was filed in Cook County against the defendants, Mercy Hospital and Medical Center and several doctors and a nurse.

The underlying lawsuit involved Milton-Hampton’s death on March 18, 2012, two days after this patient sought treatment at Mercy’s emergency department. The action raised claims for wrongful death and medical malpractice.

Ultimately, the matter was decided by a jury in favor of the defendants. The lawsuit claimed medical malpractice by the emergency department, its doctors, and a nurse, resulting in the death of the decedent. The jury returned a verdict against the plaintiff and in favor of all defendants. The circuit court entered a judgment consistent with the jury’s verdict.

On direct appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court denied the right to a fair trial and abused its discretion when it refused to give three jury instructions as requested: (1) Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Civil No. 105.07.01 (2011), the instruction on informed consent; (2) Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Civil No. 5.01 (2011), the instruction relating to missing evidence or witnesses; and (3) a non-pattern jury instruction on the loss of chance doctrine. Plaintiff also challenged the trial court’s ruling to allow the testimony of one of defendant’s medical experts and a demonstrative exhibit. Last, plaintiff argued that the jury’s verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

In short, the appellate court agreed with the plaintiff that the trial court abused its discretion and denied a fair trial when it refused to issue a pattern jury instruction on informed consent and instead issued a one-line instruction on informed consent.

On appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, the defendants challenged the appellate court’s determination that the circuit court committed reversible error that warranted a new trial by refusing plaintiff’s request for two jury instructions: (1) a nonpattern jury instruction on the loss of chance doctrine and (2) a pattern jury instruction on informed consent.
The Illinois Appellate Court recognized that civil litigants are entitled to have the jury instructed on the issues presented, the applicable legal principles, and the facts that must be proved to support a verdict. Dillon v. Evanston Hospital, 199 Ill.2d 483, 505 (2002). “While the threshold for permitting an instruction in a civil case is modest, the standard for reversing a judgment based on failure to permit an instruction is high. The decision as to which jury instructions to use falls within the discretion of the trial court.” Heastie v. Roberts, 226 Ill.2d 515, 543 (2007).

The Illinois Supreme Court held that when a jury is properly instructed on proximate cause principles by IPI Civil No. 15.01, a separate nonpattern jury instruction on loss of chance is not needed to accurately instruct the jury. The Supreme Court properly determined that a pattern jury instruction on informed consent was not required, as the plaintiff did not allege or present evidence supporting a claim of lack of informed consent.

Because the circuit court did not abuse its discretion or deny plaintiff a fair trial when it refused to issue the proposed non-pattern jury instruction and loss of chance and pattern jury instruction on informed consent, the court rejected the appellate court’s conclusion that a new trial was warranted in this case. Accordingly, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the part of the appellate court’s judgment that remanded for a new trial. The court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in its entirety.

Bailey v. Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, 2021 IL 126748 (Nov. 18, 2021).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence lawsuits, wrongful death cases, birth trauma injury lawsuits, physician negligence lawsuits, emergency department negligence cases, and traumatic brain injury lawsuits 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 Aurora, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Plainfield, Tinley Park, Arlington Heights, Crystal Lake, Woodstock, Waukegan, Gurnee, Bolingbrook, Frankfort, Matteson, Oak Lawn, Chicago (Hyde Park, Archer Heights, East Side, Burnside, Beverly, Belmont Terrace, East Rogers Park, Albany Park, Andersonville, Uptown, Buena Park, Irving Park, Pulaski Park, Edison Park), Niles, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Skokie, Ill.

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

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