September 29, 2020

In its opinion filed on August 21, 2020, an Illinois Appellate Court overturned a $50.3 million birth injury medical malpractice verdict, stating: “The jury heard extensive expert testimony on both sides that led to conflicting opinions as to the cause of Julien’s brain injury. Defendants’ experts would have used Julien’s autism diagnosis as further support for their opinion that his brain injury resulted from a chronic condition, in a case where both sides presented ample medical evidence for their positions. It was the jury’s function to resolve the conflicting expert opinions and determine the cause of Julien’s brain injury … and it was deprived of relevant evidence in making those determinations.”

“Exclusion of Julien’s autism diagnosis also prejudiced defendants in the jury’s assessment of damages. Defendants are only liable for the portion of damages resulting from injuries caused by them … Therefore, even if the jury had found that autism had nothing to do with the brain injury caused by defendants, autism may still be relevant to the question of damages.”

“Autism spectrum disorder may be relevant to, among other things, Julien’s speech and language deficits, his need for therapy, his schooling requirements, and his future employment prospects. Damages calculations included the costs of therapy and schooling and the loss of future earnings, but defendants were prevented from establishing whether Julien’s autism diagnosis would reduce their damages. Under these facts, we find that exclusion of Julien’s autism diagnosis deprived the jury of relevant evidence on the issues of causation and damages and that defendants were prejudiced as a result.”

The Illinois birth injury jury had returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $50.3 million. The defendants filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial court denied: the trial court did not believe that the defendants were “materially prejudiced” by the exclusion of Julien’s autism diagnosis because “[a]utism doesn’t seem to be material to this case.” The trial court found that autism is “at best, an alternative. *** Material to me means related to the substance of what your theory of the defense is. And I just didn’t find that.” The defendants then appealed.

The Illinois Appellate Court concluded, “Due to our findings above, we need not address plaintiff’s argument that defendants were required to seek leave of court pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 183 (eff. Feb. 16, 2011) before filing their untimely answers or defendants’ argument that opposing counsel’s remarks during closing argument constituted reversible error.”

Source Florez v. Northshore University Healthsystem d/b/a Evanston Hospital, 2020 IL App (1st) 190465.

If you or a loved one have suffered serious harm as a result of a birth injury, such as a hypoxic brain injury, in Illinois or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find an Illinois medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your birth injury medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a birth injury medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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