On September 20, 2006, the plaintiff (now age 84) presented to the Northwestern Orthopaedic Institute office for a sacroiliac injection performed by her doctor, the co-defendant.
A second co-defendant, a technologist and supervisor of radiology services at the Northwestern Orthopaedic Institute, was present during the procedure. According to the technologist, at the end of the procedure Ms. Cook got off the table under her own power and was able to stand up. Ms. Cook’s feet were able to touch the ground while she was sitting on the edge of the table. The technologist then had a 2-3 minute conversation with Ms. Cook while she was standing. During this time, the technologist asked Ms. Cook if she was dizzy or felt faint. She did not appear dizzy or report that she was having any problems.
During this conversation, a medical assistant entered the room. When the technologist heard the door open, he turned to his left to see who was entering the room and saw the medical assistant's eyes open wide. He then heard Ms. Cook fall. The technologist did not witness the fall. Ms. Cook broke her left hip as a result of the fall in the doctor's office which required a partial left hip replacement and later a revision surgery to convert to a full hip replacement.
Ms. Cook, however, claimed that after her doctor left the room following the injection, the technologist did not assist her in getting off the table. He was on his way out of the room when she began to stand. She placed her left hand on the examination table, put both feet on the stool near the table and then her left hand slipped and she lost her balance and fell to her left side. Her head hit a tray and liquid spilled into her eyes. She testified that she did not know how the fall occurred. She claims that she did not feel any dizziness, weakness or foot pain prior to falling.
The defense contended that the technologist complied with the standard of care applicable to a radiology technologist by speaking with Ms. Cook following the procedure and ensuring that she was not at an immediate risk of falling. The standard of care did not require the technologist to physically assist Ms. Cook off the procedure table in this situation and, even her doctor had designated Ms. Cook as a fall risk, the standard of care did not require any additional actions by the technologist.
The issue that was submitted to the jury was whether the technologist deviated from the standard of care by failing to assess Ms. Cook.
Plaintiff asked the jury to award Ms. Cook $881,000. The defense suggested that a reasonable amount to award Ms. Cook, in the event they found negligence, was approximately $200,000.
The jury then returned a verdict in favor of both defendants and against plaintiff.