Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

When President Trump delivered his State of the Union speech before the joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, 2017, he falsely asserted that medical malpractice liability reform would greatly impact the costs of health insurance and pharmacy drug prices.

In response, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) made the following statement:

“There is no evidence that rigging the legal system to strip Americans of their rights to hold wrongdoers accountable will lower the cost of health insurance. In fact, studies have found that limiting consumer and patient rights may actually increase costs to patients.”

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Thirteen-week-old Kevin Hernandez underwent colon surgery.  After surgery, Kevin experienced chronic diarrhea and vomiting.  He was taken to a hospital emergency department where he was diagnosed with dehydration.  Kevin was treated over the next 23 hours by the administration of fluids.  He was shortly thereafter discharged from the hospital.

Sadly, two days later, Kevin died of dehydration.  He was survived by his parents and an older sibling.

Kevin’s mother, individually and on behalf of Kevin’s estate, sued the family physician, Reynaldo Caluag, M.D., who treated Kevin during his hospital stay.  Dr. Caluag’s employer was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.  The complaint brought against the doctor and his employer alleged that Dr. Caluag chose not to properly treat Kevin for dehydration and instead discharged him prematurely without giving adequate home care instructions to his parents.

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A recent Cook County medical malpractice lawsuit against Chicago’s Advocate Trinity Hospital received an award of over $3.6 million. The Chicago medical negligence case involved the death of a two-year-old boy and was tried under the principles of res ipsa loquitur.

Res ipsa loquitur is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself” and is used in legal terms to refer to a situation where it’s assumed that an injury, in this case death, is caused by the negligence of another person. Underlying the principle of res ipsa loquitur is the assumption that the accident/injury could not have occurred unless someone was negligent.

In this recent Cook County medical negligence case, the negligence centered on the death of a two-year-old boy. The child was brought to Advocate Trinity Hospital by his parents. Of note was that his mother was an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and his father was a paramedic. The boy was brought to the ER for treatment of his first and only grand mal seizure.

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Many people’s circumstances never require them to file one lawsuit, let alone two. Yet within the span of four months Jihan Khourny was injured on two different occasions, leading to her filing two different, but related lawsuits – one being an Illinois personal injury lawsuit, the other an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit. Both cases recently settled for a combination of $1.9 million. Khourny v. Sarmed Elias, M.D., et al., No. 07 L 3871.

The personal injury claim arose from a car crash that occurred in Elgin, Illinois. Khourny was driving along Route 31 when she was hit by another car. The Illinois car accident lawsuit was brought against the driver of the other vehicle and settled for $100,000. The plaintiff was claiming property damage to her vehicle and a neck injury as a result of the car accident.

Shortly after the accident Khourny began seeking medical treatment for her neck injury. Her doctor recommended she try cortisone injections as part of her treatment plan. Cortisone injections are typically given to relieve inflammation and pain and are used for a wide variety of complaints, including arthritis, tendinitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

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While medical advances have made many formerly difficult surgeries routine, there are still dangers with any surgery, especially when anesthesia is involved. In Estate of Yvonne Harris v. Advocate Healthcare Network, et al., No. 03 L 6421, medical negligence during a routine laparoscopic tubal ligation surgery left the decedent with severe brain damage. An Illinois medical malpractice settlement totaling $8.95 million was reached between the decedent’s estate and the surgeon, anesthesiologist, physician group, and surgical center.

The healthy, young mother of two presented for the laparoscopic tubal ligation surgery, a permanent form of contraception that was supposed to be a simple in and out procedure. She was given general anesthesia and the procedure began. However, within five minutes the anesthesiologist noted that she had cardiac arrhythmia, which is an abnormal heart rate, and no blood pressure. All parties affirmed that the patient had not been getting any oxygen to her brain for several minutes.

The Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the surgeon and anesthesiologist failed to recognize the plaintiff’s deprived condition for several minutes, which resulted in her subsequent brain damage. The patient’s abnormal heart rate and lack of blood pressure were a rare complication of the surgery and were thought to be the result of a carbon dioxide embolism.

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A recent Illinois wrongful death case combined both medical malpractice counts and product defect counts. Susan Calles, et al. v. Scipto-Tokai Corp., et al., No. 07 L 4577, was initially dismissed on summary judgment, but was then returned to the trial court by the Illinois Appellate Court. The case has now concluded after reaching a settlement of $3.5 million; $1.5 million for the medical malpractice and $2 million for the product defect.

Calles involves the death of Jillian Calles, a three year-old girl who suffered smoke inhalation as a result of a fire her twin sister caused. The twin was playing with a butane lighter when she accidentally started the fire. The Illinois product defect claim alleged that the lighter design improperly lacked a child-resistant device.

Under product defect liability, a manufacturer may be held liable for a design flaw in its product if that flaw presents a danger to consumers that could have been eliminated. In addition, the danger must be a byproduct of the product’s intended use. For example, if someone becomes injured while balancing a chair on two of its four legs then this would not be the result of a design flaw given that the product was not meant to be used that way.

However, this caveat does not apply in Calles where the twin sister was obviously using the lighter correctly given that she was able to light it. Rather, the estate claims that the design should have prevented the three year-old from being able to use the lighter, period. The specific type of lighter was an Aim N Flame utility lighter manufactured by Scripto-Tokai.

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When treating cancer the goal is always to obtain as early a diagnosis as possible so as to give the cancer patient the best possible odds. However, sometimes an early diagnosis is not possible. Sometimes there are no warning signs that something is wrong until the cancerous tumors have reached a later stage in development. But sometimes the warning signs are missed and the cancer is misdiagnosed as something else, in which case there would be an Illinois medical malpractice claim for failure to diagnose cancer.

A recent settlement of an Illinois woman illustrates this point. The Cook County resident filed an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit against her orthopedic surgeon for a failure to diagnose cancer in her elbow. The delay in diagnosis required an amputation of her right arm in order to try and halt the cancer from spreading. However, this strategy did not work and the cancer metastasized to other areas of her body within the following year.

In order for there to be an Illinois medical malpractice case regarding a delayed diagnosis of cancer there needs to be evidence in the cancer patient’s medical records that medical professionals missed clear signs of the patient’s cancer. For this particular woman that sign came in the form of an MRI of her right elbow.

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A recent Chicago birth injury settlement provides an extreme example of Illinois surgical complications. The Cook County medical malpractice case was filed on behalf of a boy who was left with severe brain damage following his cardiac surgery at Loyola University Medical Center.

The minor plaintiff was eight months-old at the time the Chicago medical malpractice occurred. According to the details of the case, the little boy presented to Loyola University Medical Center for cardiac surgery. This surgery was necessary due to his congenital heart condition, but should not have resulted in severe brain damage.

However, both during and after the procedure there was a marked reduction in the oxygen flow to the plaintiff’s brain, which in turn led to the unexpected brain injury. The minor plaintiff’s brain injury was classified as a hypoxic brain injury versus an anoxic brain injury. The difference between the two types of brain injuries is that a hypoxic injury results when the brain does not receive enough oxygen to properly perform its functions, whereas an anoxic injury occurs when the brain does not receive any oxygen. However, both hypoxic and anoxic brain injuries can result in severe brain damage, which is exactly what occurred in this case.

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After almost three years of legal battles, the Illinois Supreme Court came to a decision on whether economic limits should be placed on Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits. In Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, the Illinois high court upheld a Cook County Circuit Court ruling that the Illinois law on medical malpractice non-economic damage caps violate the Illinois Constitution’s “separation of powers” clause.

This decision essentially states that the Illinois legislators interfered with a jury’s right to determine the amount of economic damages in Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits. The recent Lebron decision marks the third time that the Illinois Supreme Court struck down unconstitutional limits on medical malpractice awards, having done so with similar law in both 1976 and 1997.

The underlying lawsuit, Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, stems from a 2006 Illinois birth injury lawsuit filed by the family of a girl who suffered severe brain damage during her delivery at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, Illinois.

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Any surgical procedure inherently carries certain risks, so it is not necessarily uncommon for patients to experience post-surgical side effects. However, when those side effects are not treated properly, this type of surgical medical negligence can result in complications and poor results.

A recent Cook County medical malpractice verdict demonstrates the importance of a timely response to surgical complications in order to avoid Cook County medical negligence, Lovell v. Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, No. 4-09-0249. The facts of the case involve a Cook County resident with prostate cancer who underwent a radical retropubic prostatectomy at a local Illinois hospital.

Following the surgical procedure, the patient complained of a “bloated, constipated feeling” four days after surgery. His family physician ordered a tap-water enema to try and relieve the bloating feeling. Soon after, the urologist whom performed the original surgery resolved that the plaintiff had a fistula that had been caused by the enema. A fistula is essentially an opening that develops between two organs or vessels that do not normally connect.

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