Uldrych v. Defendant Surgeon and Hospital

  • Illinois Supreme Court01/21/2011
    Client: Defendant Surgeon
    Outcome: Affirmed judgment in favor of surgeon and against hospital on implied indemnity cross claim

Synopsis:

In a medical negligence case, DBMS attorneys successfully defended their client, a surgeon, from the co-defendant hospital's belated attempt to recover the amount the hospital paid to settle the case with the medical malpractice plaintiff.

After the case had settled, and more than five years after the surgery at issue, the hospital filed a cross action against the firm's client, a co-defendant surgeon and their employer. The trial court granted the physicians' motions to dismiss based on the argument that the hospital had to file the action within four years of the patient care at issue under 735 ILCS 5/13-212(a).

In the appellate court, the hospital claimed that the trial court had applied the wrong statute of limitations, and that, under the correct statute, the hospital had five years from payment of the settlement to sue the physicians.

DBMS attorneys, with the co-defendants' counsel, prevailed in the appellate court, which agreed with the trial court that section 13-212(a) applied. Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the dismissal order.

The Illinois Supreme Court had not previously decided this issue and accepted the hospital's request that it review the case. In its January 21, 2011 opinion, like the appellate court, the supreme court recognized the wide reach of the limitations provision in section 13-212(a) and upheld the dismissal of the hospital’s action for implied indemnity against the surgeons.

The supreme court relied on a 1990 decision in which it had applied section 13-212 to a contribution claim arising in the medical malpractice setting. As with the contribution claim in the older case, the supreme court found that an implied indemnity action implicates the same insurance policies covering healthcare providers for direct malpractice actions.

By the General Assembly’s decision to broadly word the statute -- regardless of the legal theory, an “action for damages for injury or death against any physician . . . arising out of patient care” is subject to the two-year limitation and four-year repose periods -- the legislature showed it intended to prevent a physician’s extended exposure to liability, and not just in direct malpractice lawsuits.