On May 6, 2022, the Appellate Court of Illinois First District Sixth Division (“Illinois Appellate Court”) affirmed summary judgment for a law firm that the plaintiff alleged committed legal malpractice in representing her in a medical malpractice case, holding, “plaintiff did not come forward with any evidence tending to show that the settlement she received was less than what she could have received, and therefore there was no genuine issue of material fact on the issue of damages. Her assertion that she was injured in the form of paying attorney fees for defendants’ alleged negligent representation must fail where she has not shown that defendants’ conduct resulted in any injury.”
Underlying Medical Malpractice Claim
Robert Chisum had a medical history of atrial fibrillation for which he received the blood thinner Coumadin. On February 25, 2008, Robert fell and hit his head while at a car dealership. He was taken to Highland Park Hospital where he received care from Dr. Ciro L. Iandoli. A computed tomography (CT) scan was reportedly negative. His INR—international normalized ratio—was 3.9, which was above the accepted range for a patient on Coumadin therapy. Robert was diagnosed with a concussion and was discharged from Highland Park Hospital on February 25, 2008.
On February 27, 2008, Robert experienced nausea and vomiting, and had difficulty speaking. He was found unresponsive and was taken to Highland Park Hospital, where he was then transferred to Evanston Hospital. A CT scan at Evanston Hospital showed a transtentorial and subfalcine herniation, midline shift, and a large subdural hematoma. On February 28, 2008, Robert was pronounced dead.
The plaintiff’s medical malpractice law firm filed a complaint on the estate’s behalf alleging that the wrongful death defendants breached their duties of care by failing to obtain or appreciate a history of Robert’s Coumadin therapy; failing to appreciate Robert’s elevated INR level; failing to recognize Robert’s increased risk of intercranial hemorrhage after a head trauma; failing to discontinue Coumadin in order to decrease Robert’s INR level; failing to reverse the Coumadin’s anticoagulation effects; failing to admit Robert for close monitoring; failing to consult with or refer to Robert’s primary care physician; failing to provide appropriate discharge instructions; failing to advise Robert to follow up with his primary care physician; and committing other negligent acts.
The plaintiff’s Illinois medical malpractice lawyer allegedly told plaintiff that the wrongful death claims had a settlement value of $2 million. According to plaintiff’s legal malpractice lawsuit against her former medical malpractice law firm, however, the defendant law firm failed to prosecute the matter in accordance with the standard of care. Specifically, defendant (1) failed to depose a Highland Park Hospital doctor who told plaintiff and her daughter that Robert suffered a Coumadin induced stroke; (2) failed to refute deposition testimony in which Robert’s physicians testified that Robert had complained of head and neck pain prior to the February 25, 2008; (3) disclosed an expert’s report that contained improper assumptions regarding Robert’s income, estimates of that income, and the length of Robert’s career; and (4) pressured plaintiff into settling the estate’s claims at a mediation. During the mediation, plaintiff “came to an understanding” that the defendant law firm was unprepared to try the estate’s claims to a verdict. On October 30, 2012, plaintiff, allegedly “feeling like she had no other option,” settled the estate’s claims against the wrongful death defendants for $650,000.
The Illinois Appellate Court stated, “We agree with plaintiff that she presented some evidence that defendants breached the standard of care … However, the rest of plaintiff’s arguments on the issue of breach falls flat … Here, plaintiff’s alleged actual damages are purely speculative … While Watkins [plaintiff’s expert] opined that defendants breached the standard of care, that testimony alone is insufficient to establish an actual pecuniary injury proximately caused by defendants’ conduct … plaintiff’s argument that defendants’ conduct may have negatively affected the settlement falls short of her burden to show that there is some evidence tending to show that to be true, particularly where Watkins repeatedly refused to opine on the settlement value or the merits of the underlying case. In other words, plaintiff cannot—on this record—demonstrate any genuine issue of material fact as to whether she suffered any injury proximately caused by defendants’ alleged negligence.”
Source Chisum v. McKeen, 2022 IL App (1st) 210439.
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