Illinois Appellate Court Distinguishes Judicial Admission from Evidentiary Admission – Serrano v. Rotman

The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed a trial court decision to treat a defendant doctor’s response to a plaintiff’s request to admit facts as evidentiary evidence rather than a judicial admission. The legal ruling arose out of an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit involving complications following a surgeon’s attempt to reverse a tubal ligation surgery, Migdalia Serrano v. Carlos A. Rotman, M.D., No. 1-09-2028.
In her surgical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff, Migdalia Serrano, alleged that the defendant doctor, Carlos Rotman, M.D., negligently chose not to administer Factor IX, a coagulation factor, before and after her tubal ligation surgery. The plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged that the failure to administer the coagulation factor resulted in an infected hematoma. The Cook County jury trial resulted in a verdict in favor of the defendant surgeon, which the plaintiff then appealed.

At the center of the plaintiff’s appeal was that Dr. Rotman had been aware that Serrano was a hemophilia carrier, which would have made her more susceptible to developing a hematoma. Serrano alleged that Rotman chose not to administer Factor IX despite knowing about her heightened risk for infection. Moreover, the plaintiff alleged that as a result of the surgical malpractice, she suffered from additional medical complications that would not have occurred had she been given the Factor IX prior to her surgery.

Serrano’s attorneys were using evidence that Rotman submitted in response to the plaintiff’s Illinois Supreme Court Rule 216 Request to Admit Facts in order to support their argument. In its request to admit, the plaintiff’s submitted that “[Dr. Rotman] elected not to infuse (the plaintiff) with Factor IX Concentrate prior to, during or following surgery,” to which Dr. Rotman responded, “Admit.”

As a result of this affirmative response, during the jury trial the plaintiff’s attorney asked the trial judge to instruct the jury that Rotman’s admission to the request to admit was a judicial admission. A judicial admission is one in which the judge rules that a written admission by one party is treated as an incontrovertible fact in the remaining court proceedings. If Rotman’s admission that he elected not to infuse the Factor IX at any point during the surgery were admitted as judicial evidence then the jury would have to consider that point as true.

However, the court refused to do so, giving as its reason that judicial admissions are only allowed when the admission is clear, unequivocal, and made with the party’s personal knowledge. The court felt that the plaintiff’s request to admit was not overly clear and as such did not allow it to be classified as an judicial admission in the Illinois medical malpractice proceeding.

Instead, the admission would be treated as an evidentiary admission, which differs from a judicial admission in that it does not constitute an unequivocal fact. Rather, with an evidentiary admission the jury must decide how much weight or importance to give to the admission, whereas with judicial admissions the jury must assume the admission is true. It was this distinction that led to the plaintiff’s appeal, in which it alleged that had the court deemed the request to admit to be a judicial admission that the jury would have had to decide in favor of the plaintiff instead of the defendant in the Illinois surgical malpractice lawsuit.

In its review of the trial judge’s decision, the Illinois Appellate Court agreed with the lower court that

The Rule 216 request to admit at issue was not clear or unequivocal. Rather, it was ambiguous. As such, the trial court opted to treat the statement as an evidentiary admission rather than a judicial admission, allowing Dr. Rotman to explain the basis for his admission.

Furthermore, the appellate court held that Dr. Rotman’s affirmative admission did not indicate whether the surgeon had any knowledge of the plaintiff’s predisposal to hematomas. Rather, the request to admit only determined whether or not Dr. Rotman did in fact administer the Factor IX prior to the surgery.

The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s decision, asserting that it had not abused its discretion in treating the defendant’s admission as an evidentiary admission rather than a judicial admission. Therefore, the plaintiff’s appeal in her Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit was denied and the verdict in favor of Dr. Rotman stands.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois surgical malpractice lawsuits for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas including Lake Zurich, Oak Forest, Lemont, Stickney, LaGrange, Niles, and Des Plaines.

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