The Appellate Court of Illinois Third District (“Appellate Court”) affirmed in its April 24, 2017 opinion, an Illinois medical malpractice jury’s award of $1,727,409.50 to the wife and the estate of a man who died because the defendant neuropathologist who read the biopsy slides of the man’s brain tumor incorrectly determined that the mass in his brain was a primary, benign lesion called a meningioma, leading to a delay of approximately two years in treating what turned out to be metastatic renal cell carcinoma that had spread to the pituitary gland in his brain.
As a result of the defendant’s misdiagnosis of a benign meningioma, the man underwent a limited period of radiation and returned to work. However, his symptoms subsequently returned and he sought multiple consultations with various medical specialists before undergoing two additional surgeries. The tissues obtained during those surgeries were submitted to pathology for evaluation and the pathologist diagnosed metastatic renal cell carcinoma that had spread to his pituitary gland. The slides from the original surgery were then obtained and re-evaluated by another pathologist, who determined that the slides included malignant cells that the pathologist diagnosed as renal cell cancer.
The man and his wife filed their Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit on February 4, 2011. The defendants filed their answer in which they raised the affirmative defense that the plaintiffs’ medical malpractice claims were time-barred because of the two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in Illinois.
The man died on May 31, 2014 due to a metastasis to his abdomen from the cancerous kidney. His estate was substituted as a plaintiff and the Illinois medical malpractice trial subsequently ensued, resulting in the Illinois medical malpractice jury finding in favor of the plaintiffs.
The defendants appealed, arguing that the trial judge had committed reversible error with regard to numerous rulings. One of the errors argued by the defendants was that the trial judge had found that the plaintiffs’ Illinois medical malpractice complaint was timely filed. They argued that the evidence overwhelmingly established that the plaintiffs had knowledge of the man’s injury, and that the defendant neuropathologist caused the injury, more than two years before the medical malpractice complaint was filed, making the complaint untimely.
The Appellate Court stated that the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in Illinois is two years from “the date on which the claimant knew, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have known *** of the existence of the injury or death for which damages are sought.” 735 ILCS 5/13-212(a). Time begins to run under section 212(a) when the plaintiff reasonably discovers the defendant’s negligence might have contributed to the injury, not when the plaintiff knows of the injury.
The Appellate Court determined that the plaintiffs’ medical malpractice complaint was timely filed on February 4, 2011: up until the time when the pathology results from the tissues removed during the two subsequent surgeries were delivered to the man’s treating physician (i.e., February 11 or 12, 2009), the man was treated for a benign tumor; when his symptoms returned in 2008, he immediately sought medical advice and did so again when the symptoms continued in 2009.
The Appellate Court found that the man used reasonable diligence in securing treatment throughout the term of his illness: he was not aware until February 11 or 12, 2009 that the tumor was cancerous. Once he discovered that he was injured and that his injury was wrongfully caused, he and his wife filed their Illinois medical malpractice complaint within two years. The Appellate Court therefore held that the trial court did not err in denying the defendants’ motions for summary judgment and a directed verdict on this issue.
The Appellate Court also rejected the defendants’ other challenges to the jury’s verdict, and therefore affirmed the jury’s verdict.
Source Gapinski v. Gujrati, 2017 IL App (3d) 150502
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