Hospital Liability in Cook County Jury Verdict Upheld Against Loyola University Medical Center In Heart Transplant Case

Loyola University Medical Center was held liable by a Cook County jury in 2006 for “institutional negligence” involving the unsuccessful heart transplantation attempt of Carl Longnecker, the plaintiff decedent. The hospital was held liable for not ensuring that a doctor understood his role on the heart transplant team. At the same time the jury found that the same doctor, also named as a defendant, was not guilty of Illinois medical negligence.

Longnecker had been waiting for a transplant for 14 months when he was notified that a heart had been found for him. Dr. Parvathaneni was responsible for obtaining that heart and getting it to Loyola, where the transplant would be performed. According to surgeons at Loyola, Parvathaneni played a crucial role in the process in that they relied on his inspection and evaluation when they accepted and used the heart. Dr. Parvathenani testified that he was unaware that he needed to perform a detailed assessment of the heart, but just was responsible for getting it to Loyola quickly. So when it became evident that the heart had significant disease and allegedly never functioned after its removal the question was who was responsible.

The transplant surgeons decided to go ahead with the surgery, stating that they needed to go ahead with the transplant of the diseased heart because Longnecker’s own heart had already been removed. However, it should also be noted that the doctors could have used an artificial heart in this case. Longnecker never regained consciousness after the surgery and died several days later.

Post trial, the Circuit Court judge, Irwin Solganick granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of Loyola, even though the jury found the hospital responsible with a verdict in favor the plaintiff-decedent’s family in the amount of $2.7 million. So even though the jury found the hospital guilty, Judge Solganick overruled that decision and entered a not-guilty verdict against Loyola. According to Judge Solganick his decision to vacate that jury verdict was premised on inconsistencies in the verdict.

According to Judge Solganick the inconsistencies are that the jury concluded that the defendant doctor, Dr. Parvathaneni, did not do anything to harm Longnecker, but at the same time ruled that the hospital was negligent in not making sure that Dr. Parvathaneni understood that he was to thoroughly inspect the heart before harvesting it. According to Judge Solganick “whether [Dr. Parvathaneni] personally did not understand his role or whether Loyola did not see that he understood his role did not matter” and therefore Loyola shouldn’t be held accountable for Longnecker’s death.

Illinois’ First District Appellate Court, in a 2-1 decision, reversed Judge Solganick’s order and remanded the case back to the trial judge for reinstatement of the verdict.

Kreisman Law Offices represents individuals in Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits for the entire Chicago and Cook County area, including Skokie, Palatine, Vernon Hills, Downers Grove, and Alsip.

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