Lawyers at DBMS successfully litigate a wide variety of civil cases and argue appeals in some of the most challenging jurisdictions in the country.

Appellate

On Appeal, DBMS Successfully Defends a Jury Verdict in Favor of Emergency Medicine Physician

06/16/2022 May 28, 2021
Client:

Emergency Medicine Physician and Her Practice Group

Outcome:

Appellate court affirms judgment entered on jury verdict in medical malpractice case

Synopsis:

Karen Kies DeGrand and Laura Coffey Ieremia secured an appellate opinion affirming judgement in favor of the defendants in a medical malpractice case. The estate of the decedent brought claims under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act and Illinois Survival Act against an emergency medicine physician and her group. The plaintiff alleged that the physician negligently discharged the decedent from the emergency room, where he had sought treatment for pain caused by a kidney stone, without recommending admission to the hospital for monitoring of his diabetes, morbid obesity and hypertension.

At trial, the trial court refused the plaintiff’s proffered jury instructions related to proximate causation. Ruling that the that the Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction 15.01 defining proximate causation adequately instructed the jury, the trial court refused the plaintiff’s proffered instruction on the lost chance doctrine, which permits a plaintiff to establish proximate cause by proving the alleged negligence lessened the effectiveness of treatment or increased the risk of an unfavorable outcome. The jury returned verdicts for both the physician and her group.

On appeal, the appellate court rejected the plaintiff’s request for a new trial due to the claims of instructional and evidentiary error. Holding that the instruction defining proximate causation properly instructed the jury – particularly where the evidence showed only one cause of the decedent’s death – the Second District of the Illinois Appellate Court rejected the plaintiff’s position that a separate instruction on the lost chance doctrine was necessary.

The appellate court also held that the trial court properly excluded opinion testimony from the deputy coroner, a former law enforcement officer. Because the deputy coroner had no medical training, she could not properly offer the medical opinion that ischemic changes caused discoloration of the decedent’s legs seen postmortem. Further, the Second District rejected the plaintiff’s contention that the deputy coroner’s report documenting the purported ischemic changes was admissible pursuant to Section 115-5.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides that the records of the coroner’s “medical or laboratory examiner” are admissible of the facts and opinions therein. The appellate court reasoned that the deputy coroner did not fall within the statute because she was neither a “medical” examiner, meaning a physician, or a “laboratory” examiner, like a toxicologist or biologist.