The Appellate Court of Illinois Third District (“Illinois Appellate Court”) held in its opinion dated August 27, 2019 that an Illinois medical malpractice wrongful death jury’s award of $500,000 in compensation for the surviving wife and four children’s loss of society claim was inadequate compensation and therefore remanded the case for a new trial as to such damages.
The man’s wife filed an Illinois medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of her husband’s estate against various health care providers involved in her husband’s care at an Illinois hospital where he was being treated for a serious condition known as “hemolytic anemia” (HA), a rare disorder that causes the patient’s own immune system to attack and eventually destroy healthy red blood cells.
The Illinois medical malpractice wrongful death jury awarded $1.1 million for loss of money, goods, and services, and $500,000 for loss of society, apportioning 70% responsibility to one of the defendant physicians and 30% responsibility to the defendant hospital.
The Illinois Appellate Court stated: “The jury’s award of $500,000 was manifestly inadequate to compensate Angela and Donald’s four children for the loss of Donald’s companionship and society. Donald was only 48 years old at the time of his death. He was active and physically fit, and he had no chronic health conditions before his hospitalization for HA in September 2009. He and Angela had been happily married for 19 years, and their three children were minors when Donald died.” The Illinois Appellate Court held: “the unrebutted testimony clearly established that Angela and the children suffered a substantial loss as a result of Donald’s untimely death. Under the circumstances presented in this case, the jury’s award of $500,000 bore no reasonable relationship to the family members’ loss of Donald’s society (including his guidance and loving support as a devoted husband and father) or the pain and grief they suffered as a result. We are mindful of the deference owed to a jury’s damages verdict and we are normally reluctant to overturn such a verdict. Given the unrebutted evidence presented in this case, however, we find the jury’s verdict to be palpably inadequate and against the manifest weight of the evidence. To find that $500,000 (divided among the five survivors) is adequate compensation for the loss of Donald’s society would be to trivialize the devastating impact Donald’s death had on his family. We therefore reverse the damages verdict for loss of society and remand for a new trial on that issue.”
The Illinois Appellate Court further held that it was error as a matter of law for the trial court to have granted summary judgment to the on-call hematologist who was consulted by telephone regarding the decedent’s care in the medical intensive care unit, on the basis that an on-call physician did not owe Donald a duty of care. The Illinois Appellate Court stated: “the trial court focused only on the length of the telephone contact between Drs. Thomas [the on-call hematologist] and Bolton. The court then determined, as a matter of “public policy,” that the duration of the contact between Drs. Thomas and Bolton was insufficient to establish a duty of care … we conclude that the trial court erred in finding that Dr. Thomas owed no duty of care to Donald … The record established that Dr. Thomas was designated by OSF as the on-call hematologist physician, and as such, was in a position to expect to be called upon to render guidance and assistance in treating specific patients at OSF. The record further established that the on-call relationship that Dr. Thomas had with OSF, through his employer Oncology-Hematology Associates of Central Illinois, was part of a formalized patient care regime at OSF where treating/attending physicians were expected to contact an on-call specialist for consultation and guidance regarding specific patients as the need arose at OSF. The record also established that Thomas’s duty, as the on-call hematologist physician, included going to the hospital to render assistance in treatment if deemed necessary. It is evident that Dr. Thomas provided a specific service to a specific patient (Donald). Dr. Thomas’s consultations were followed pursuant to OSF’s protocol and other contractual obligations Dr. Thomas’s employer had with OSF. Dr. Thomas interpreted test results and gave medical advice to Dr. Bolton regarding Donald’s care, he was compensated for his consultation, and he was expected to come to the hospital to render treatment if it was deemed necessary … we reverse the jury’s erroneous allocation of damages and remand for a new trial to determine the proper allocation of fault and liability between Dr. Balagani/OSF and, if necessary, the Thomas defendants.”
Source McIntyre v. Balagani, 2019 IL App (3d) 140543.
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