Medical Malpractice Claim Survives Res Judicata Assertion; Wilson v. Edward Hospital

The Illinois Supreme Court has decided an appeal as to whether or not res judicata in a refiled medical-malpractice complaint barred its refiling. In the underlying case, Brandon and Daphne Wilson claimed that Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill., was liable for the negligence of doctors under the theory of actual and apparent agency.

The hospital was granted a summary judgment order on the actual-agent allegations and the Wilsons voluntarily dismissed their complaint, but refiled it within one year. Edward Hospital then moved to dismiss the case based on res judicata, which essentially means that the issue has already been finally adjudicated by the court.

Under the Supreme Court decision in Hudson v. City of Chicago, 228 Ill.2d 468 (2008) and Rein v. David A. Noyes & Co., 172 Ill.2d 325 (1996), res judicata bars a refiled lawsuit when:

A. A final judgment is entered on one count in a multi-count complaint involving the same cause of action;
B. The plaintiff voluntarily dismisses the remaining counts under §2-1009 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure; and
C. The plaintiff refiles the case within a year, based on §13-217 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure.

Edward Hospital also relied on Williams v. Ingalls Memorial Hospital, 408 Ill.App.3d 360 (2011), which applied res judicata in another medical malpractice case involving allegations that the hospital was responsible for the negligence of its actual and apparent agents, the doctors.

Here, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that “Williams was incorrectly decided.” The Supreme Court also stated that three requirements must be met for res judicata to apply, (1) a final judgment on the merits; (2) identity of a cause of action; and (3) identity of parties or their privies.

The court stated that the summary judgment entered by the prior court did not end the litigation. In distinguishing the Williams case, the Supreme Court held that apparent agency and actual agency are not separate claims for the purposes of res judicata and that no final order was entered in this case. The plaintiffs have one claim or cause of action against the hospital; a negligence claim based on the hospital’s responsibility for the allegedly negligent acts of the defendant doctors.

At the trial court level, the grant of a partial summary judgment on actual agency merely removed some of the allegations against the hospital from the case, but the allegations of agency remained. The plaintiffs could still prove that the hospital was liable for negligence based upon the remaining allegations of apparent agency. The trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment did not dispose of the rights of the parties on a separate level of the controversy. Therefore, the order was not final for res judicata purposes and the plaintiffs were not barred from asserting their allegations of a parent agency in their refiled case.

Wilson v. Edward Hospital, 2012 IL 112898 (Dec. 13, 2012).
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence cases, birth injury cases and other personal injury matters for individuals and families for more than 37 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Bensenville, Bolingbrook, Calumet City, Deerfield, Elk Grove Village, Evanston, Joliet, Markham, Rolling Meadows, Chicago (Bridgeport) and Lisle, Ill.

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