On July 25, 2017, Kreisman Law Office’s Robert Kreisman was one of the principal speakers at the Professional Negligence Section’s full-day session. Mr. Kreisman was one of several speakers on the topic of maternal deaths and the causes related to medical malpractice. The seminar was part of the American Association for Justice‘s (AAJ) annual convention that was held in Boston, July 22-26, 2017. Robert Kreisman is the immediate past chair of the Professional Negligence Section of AAJ.

Mr. Kreisman has often been a speaker at both annual and mid-year meetings of AAJ. In addition, Mr. Kreisman has been a faculty member for many professional negligence seminars sponsored by AAJ over many years. Several years ago, he was honored with the “diplomat” status for his participation as a speaker and teacher of trial technique and strategies with the organization.

At the July 25, 2017 program, Mr. Kreisman spoke on the subject of proving cause in maternal deaths due to influenza. It is unfortunate that the United States statistically has a dismal record in maternal deaths. In fact, the number of maternal deaths in the U.S. has been rising alarmingly over the last decade.
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Mary and Terry Cohan filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Medical Imaging Consultants claiming that the company and its medical providers were negligent in the treatment that caused Mary’s breast cancer to progress undiagnosed for one year. It was alleged that the delay in diagnosis led to her suffering damages from a shortened life expectancy and physical and mental suffering.

The medical defendants moved for a directed verdict at the end of the Cohan case at the jury trial on the basis that plaintiffs failed to make a prima facie case of causation and damages against the defendant. The elements of a medical negligence claim, like all negligence claims are: duty, breach of duty, causation and damages.

The district court judge granted the defendants’ motion, concluding that there was no sufficient proof of damage or causation other than the loss of chance of a lower rate of non-recurrence of cancer, which did not constitute a proper measure of damage at the time.
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In 2009, Gary Williamson was a postal worker who sought damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for medical malpractice on the part of the Department of Veteran Affairs in the treatment of injuries he suffered in his right foot. Williamson usually worked a walking route, walking up to 8 miles each day on the job. He was also doing other physical activities, including running and CrossFit, which could have contributed to the severity of his injury.

Because of his injuries, Williamson eventually received benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA): $79,379.66 in temporary total disability net compensation from March 20, 2010 through Oct. 25, 2012; $27,801.27 for medical expenses; and $19,974.19 as a lump-sum “scheduled award.” This federal statute is the federal law for workers injured on the job. This is the federal version of the workers’ compensation act that most states have, including Illinois.

In addition to the benefits he was receiving by way of FECA, Williamson sought damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act for medical malpractice by the V.A. for the treatment of his injuries, which included two unsuccessful surgeries. The U.S. District Court judge denied the government’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed that order, denying the motion for summary judgment.
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Elizabeth McNamara was 63 when she underwent a right hip replacement that was done by an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. David Weissberg. After the surgery, she developed right foot drop and was diagnosed as having an injured peroneal nerve.

McNamara continued to suffer the foot drop and numbness in her right leg — problems that caused her to fall and necessitated the use of a leg brace for walking and modifications to her car so that she was able to drive.

McNamara and her husband filed a lawsuit against Dr. Weissberg, maintaining that the nerve injury resulted from either his misplacement of a surgical retractor or application of excessive force on the right leg during the surgery.
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A decision by a McHenry County, Ill., trial court dismissing the medical malpractice lawsuit on the grounds of res judicata bar on claim-splitting has been reversed by the Illinois Appellate Court. In this medical negligence lawsuit, the trial judge erroneously determined that only an express agreement from defendants could satisfy the “agreement in effect” exception to claim-splitting. The defendants’ lawyers, just before the jury trial would have started, implied that they would not object to a refiling by plaintiff as defense counsel suggested in that refiling was a method to preserve the plaintiff’s lawsuit without associated costs.

In 2008, the plaintiff Robert Kantner filed a multi-count medical malpractice lawsuit against defendants Ladonna Jo Waugh, M.D., Mercy Health System Corp., Mercy Harvard Hospital Inc., Mercy Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and Mercy Alliance Inc. Kantner’s lawsuit was based on permanent injuries he alleged he suffered following bariatric surgery. His lawsuit in different counts alleged (1) informed consent and (2) negligence.

In 2009, the defendants moved to dismiss the informed-consent claim and the trial court granted that motion. Kantner and his lawyers proceeded to trial on the negligence claim. Thus, the plaintiff spit off one count of his complaint leaving the other count to proceed.
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Mark Brown was a 39-year-old high school wrestling coach who began experiencing dizziness, neck pain, blurred vision and nausea while at a wrestling practice. He went to a local hospital, and paramedics transferred him to Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center where he was given a CT scan without contrast as part of a stroke workup.

The next day, Brown was discharged with a diagnosis of benign positional vertigo.

On the way home from the hospital, he suffered a massive stroke that caused severe brain damage. As a result, he lost vision and experienced difficulties with walking and speaking, among other problems. Brown now requires 24-hour-a-day care.
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In a split decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court has allowed a medical malpractice lawsuit to proceed against the defendant, a surgeon, who was alleged to have chosen not to inform a patient, the plaintiff, of a risk associated with a device implantation procedure. The trial judge dismissed the case for lack of a medical expert to support the plaintiff’s case.

In a 4-3 decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court agreed with the intermediate appellate court that overturned the trial court’s directed verdict. The claim brought by Jacqulyn G. Harrington had been dismissed. In her suit, Harrington had alleged that Dr. Alex Argotte chose not to warn her that the device, called an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter, which was designed to prevent blood clots, could break apart and become lodged in her lungs.

The trial judge threw out the case shortly after Harrington’s lawyer made an opening statement at trial saying that they were not going to call an expert witness because only “common sense” was required to determine whether Harrington had been properly informed of the risks of the procedure.
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The Florida Supreme Court has struck down a state law that capped noneconomic damages in medical malpractice injury lawsuits that stood at $1 million. The high court found that the law violates the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution.

In this 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the Fourth District Court of Appeals’ 2015 decision that found that the cap, established by Florida statute, does not pass the rational basis test because the law arbitrarily reduces medical malpractice claimants’ rights to full compensation when there are multiple claimants and because it “does not bear a rational relationship” to its stated purpose of addressing an alleged medical malpractice insurance crisis in the state.

The decision relied heavily on the Florida Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Estate of McAll v. United States that struck down the cap on noneconomic damages in wrongful death cases for many of the same reasons.
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After the jury found in favor of the treating physician, an appeal was taken by Zbigniew Adwent arguing that he was entitled to present testimony from a forensic document examiner in the lawsuit he brought against Dr. Richard B. Novak. The lawsuit alleged that Dr. Novak chose not to properly treat Adwent for back pain and other ailments. The Illinois Appellate Court for the First District stated that the examiner’s opinion that a page was missing from Adwent’s chart was conjecture.

“Mr. Adwent’s counsel clearly intended to use that testimony to suggest that Mr. Adwent’s medical records had perhaps been altered to cover the doctor’s inappropriate treatment of his patient.” The appeals panel also stated: “Such a use of this testimony would be completely speculative and highly prejudicial.”

The appeals panel also ruled that Adwent’s claim that the trial judge should have instructed the jury on contributory negligence also did not hold up because there was no reason to think doing so would have had any impact on the jury.
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Aaron Riedel, who was 28 at the time, went to Lodi Community Hospital emergency room complaining of back pain. He told the emergency department staff that he was taking an antibiotic to treat a MRSA infection. Riedel was later discharged from Lodi Community Hospital with a diagnosis of simple muscle strain.

The next day, he returned to the emergency room with worsening back pain. Again, Riedel informed the emergency department staff about the antibiotic he was taking and his MRSA history. The emergency room physician, Dr. Christopher Kalapodis, ordered a CT scan, which ruled out a kidney stone as the cause of the problem.

Riedel was then given a dose of morphine and an anti-inflammatory before he was again discharged. The next day however, he required additional treatment in the emergency room where he was diagnosed as having a spinal epidural abscess. Despite efforts through surgery and rehabilitation, Riedel was left a paraplegic.
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