Illinois Appellate Court Reverses $41 Million Jury Verdict for Trial Court’s Error in Refusing Defendant to Add Affirmative Defense

Late on the night of Nov. 13, 2015, Logan Bland and his friend, Kyle George, were at Q Bar, which was owned by Q-West Inc., where they were regulars.

Bland became intoxicated and was cut off from further alcoholic beverages. In the meantime, Bland got into a fight with George. Bland had to be physically removed to the office of Q Bar’s manager. Bland was told to calm down if he wished to remain, but he returned to the bar after a few minutes and began another fight with George.

Four employees were required to physically remove Bland from the building. Bland dragged all four onto the floor, kicking one in the throat and chin. Emergency services were called, and the police and paramedics responded.

Bland sat up and was uncooperative with paramedics. He denied having any injury, repeatedly moving his head, neck and shoulders and lifted his arms over his head. He repeatedly verbally abused the medical staff as he was taken to a hospital.

However, the following morning, Bland complained of neck pain and said he could not move his legs. Imaging at Central DuPage Hospital indicated the bones at C6 and C7 of his spine were out of alignment. Surgery was of limited value and Bland remained a quadriplegic.

Bland filed suit against Q-West and medical providers. The jury found Q-West negligent and, even with 20% contributory negligence attributed to Bland, he was awarded $41 million in damages. Q-West appealed.

On appeal, Q-West challenged the trial court’s decision to enter judgment on the jury’s verdict and to deny its motion for a new trial. The appellate court emphasized that it reviews the trial court’s decision for abuse of discretion and would not reverse the jury’s decision unless it was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Q-West argued the trial court erred in refusing to allow it to amend its affirmative defense to add self-defense.

The trial court explicitly refused to do so because it was raised the day after Bland rested his case when it could have been raised at any point before that.

The appellate panel concluded that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion. The appellate court emphasized that “[w]hen the parties know of the facts giving rise to an affirmative defense prior to trial, and the trial court can reasonably conclude the defense, though not raised in the pleadings, was part of the case ab initio (at the beginning), it may allow the pleadings to be raised by amendment, even after the plaintiff has presented his case.”

Because Bland knew that there would be evidence given of him attacking employees at Q-West, the appellate court found that Bland had been aware of the possibility of self-defense being raised, and thus the defendant still would have the opportunity to call witnesses in rebuttal.

The appellate court also found the trial court abused its discretion in denying Q-West proposed jury instructions on self-defense, sole proximate cause and contributory negligence.

Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the decision of the circuit court and remanded the case for a new trial.

Logan Bland v. Q-West, Inc., 2023 IL App (2d) 210683, Jan. 10, 2023.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice lawsuits, Illinois appeals, catastrophic injury lawsuits, spinal injury lawsuits and work injury cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 45 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Arlington Heights, Orland Park, Evanston, Elmhurst, South Holland, Alsip, Des Plaines, Waukegan, Joliet, Romeoville, Chicago (Back of the Yards, North Lawndale, Garfield Park, Washington Park, Bronzeville, Pilsen, Rogers Park, Edgewater, Uptown, Portage Park), Clarendon Hills, Hinsdale, Lake Zurich, Vernon Hills and Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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