Illinois Supreme Court Will Decide Wrongful-Death Claim After Statute of Repose Expired

The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to accept for consideration a case appealed from the Illinois Appellate Court for the 1st District stating that this is a case of first impression. The case of Sheri Lawler v. The University of Chicago Medical Center was decided early this year, reversing a Cook County judge’s decision that disallowed an amendment to the medical malpractice lawsuit for wrongful death.

In the appellate court decision, the court held that the plaintiff’s estate was allowed to add new wrongful-death claims even after the statute of repose had expired.

The original lawsuit was brought by Jill Prusak who sued The University of Chicago Medical Center and Advocate Christ Hospital and a doctor and some others for medical malpractice in August 2011. It was claimed that the doctors and hospitals misdiagnosed her central nervous system lymphoma, a tumor affecting the brain or spinal cord as a macular pathology, which is a condition in a patient’s retinas.

Prusak died in November 2013 while the case was still pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Her daughter, Sheri Lawler, continued the case as the executor or administrator of her mother’s estate and wanted to add a wrongful-death claim to her lawsuit. This seems natural after the plaintiff had died, and it was claimed that her death was caused by the misdiagnosis and medical negligence.

However, the Circuit Court judge rejected the motion to amend the complaint saying it was time-barred under the four-year statute of repose. However, the Illinois Appellate Court for the 1st District reversed that decision saying that Lawler’s wrongful-death claims are not barred because the new claims related back to the same set of facts in the original lawsuit. “Defendants have not shown how they will be prejudiced by the allowance of Lawler’s amended complaint, especially considering their attention was directed, within the statutory time prescribed to the facts that formed the basis of the claims asserted against them.”

It was noted in the appellate court decision that this particular issue of relationship-back in a claimed wrongful-death case had not been decided before. Since there was no prior precedent for how the state’s wrongful-death statute interacted with the limits on filing a medical-malpractice claim and the relationship-back doctrine, the Illinois Supreme Court has accepted this case to be considered. The court will consider whether this case is one in which there are conflicting statutes that need to be assessed and determined by the Supreme Court.

We have reported on the Illinois Appellate Court opinion in this case when it considered this issue in the appeal from the trial judge’s decision denying the motion to amend the complaint adding wrongful-death claims. A later report on the Illinois Supreme Court decision will follow.

Sheri Lawler v. The University of Chicago Medical Center, IL Supreme Court.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice cases, wrongful death cases and birth trauma injury cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas, including Orland Park, Flossmoor, Country Club Hills, Chicago Ridge, Midlothian, Chicago Heights, Oak Lawn, Oak Forest, Oak Park, Franklin Park, River Grove, Harwood Heights, Niles, Chicago (Little Village, Little Italy, West Loop, West Town, Bronzeville, Kenwood, Hyde Park, Washington Park, Grand Crossing, South Shore, Englewood, Lawndale), Maywood and Forest Park, Ill.

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