U.S. Court of Appeals Affirms District Court Judge’s Decision that Plaintiff’s Medical Witness was Not Credible

Philip Madden suffered from numerous medical conditions including obesity, respiratory acidosis, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity hyperventilation syndrome and hyperlipidemia. He was admitted to the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Hospital in Chicago several times leading up to his last admission in December 2007.

When he returned for an outpatient appointment, it was found that his labs were abnormal. He was admitted to the hospital. At the time of his admission, the pulmonary consulting services described him as suffering from a wide range of medical issues.

Madden was placed in respiratory isolation. A week after being admitted, he suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest. Madden was intubated and resuscitated, but he never regained consciousness and died later at a long-term care facility.

Madden’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). A bench trial took place and each party brought in a medical expert witness. The judge found that the government’s witness was credible and Madden’s was not. The U.S. District Court found in favor of the United States. Madden’s estate appealed.

The appeals panel analyzed the Madden estate’s medical expert by examining the witness’s lack of knowledge and familiarity with Madden’s medical records. The panel noted that this doctor provided his expert opinion based on facts not supported by the medical records, and his opinions were not supported by relevant medical literature, data and studies. The panel stated that the district court also made note that the estate’s expert had innate bias due to his relationship with Madden’s family and his involvement with Madden’s medical situation prior to his death.

In contrast, the appeals panel stated that the district court found that it was clear from the testimony of the United States’ expert witness that she reviewed the entirety of Madden’s medical records. The panel noted that the government expert’s opinions were drawn from her knowledge of medical records, coupled with research conducted to present the necessary literature, data and study during her testimony.

Accordingly, the appeals panel found that the district court properly determined that one expert was more credible than the other and stated that the Madden estate presented no valid reason to quarrel with this determination. Thus, the decision of the district court was affirmed.

Felicia Madden, et al. v. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, No. 16-3740 (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, Oct. 17, 2017).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence lawsuits, wrongful death cases and birth trauma injury cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Wheaton, Hinsdale, Joliet, Aurora, Waukegan, Lake Zurich, Gurnee, Crystal Lake, Grayslake, Chicago (Uptown, Lake Calumet, Hegewisch, Bronzeville, South Shore, West Loop, Lakeview), Arlington Heights and Palatine, Ill.

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