April 4, 2020

An Illinois Appellate Court, in its opinion filed on March 2, 2020, reversed summary judgment for the defendants in an Illinois medical malpractice wrongful death action where the plaintiff alleged that the decedent was brought to Swedish Covenant’s emergency department after experiencing a severe headache where she underwent a CT scan, which Dr. Kamal read and found to be normal. The decedent was then released from Swedish but a few hours later, another doctor reviewed the decedent’s CT scan and found signs of a brain bleed, and the decedent was called back to Swedish Covenant for treatment.

The decedent chose not to pursue further treatment at Swedish Covenant and instead immediately presented herself to the emergency department at Lutheran General Hospital. Doctors at Lutheran General did another series of tests, did not diagnose a brain bleed, and discharged her from the hospital without treatment. The decedent died three days later of an alleged brain hemorrhage.

In the plaintiff’s fourth amended complaint, the plaintiff alleged that Dr. Kamal’s and Swedish Covenant’s failure to promptly identify and treat the decedent’s brain bleed wrongfully caused her death. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that Dr. Kamal’s failure to diagnose the decedent’s subarachnoid brain hemorrhage and failure to advise the emergency room of her condition deprived the decedent of treatment and aggravated the underlying medical condition that caused her death. The plaintiff alleged that International Teleradiology was liable for Dr. Kamal’s failures under the theory of actual or apparent agency and the doctrine of respondeat superior.

The circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of Dr. Kamal and International Radiology, finding that Dr. Kamal was not liable for medical negligence because his failure to identify the decedent’s brain bleed was not a proximate cause of her death. The circuit court also entered summary judgment in favor of Swedish Covenant and found that there was no unbroken causal link that could establish that Swedish Covenant or its alleged agents proximately caused injury to the decedent. The plaintiff appealed.

The Illinois Appellate Court stated: “We find that a question of fact exists as to whether Swedish Covenant’s failure to communicate the CT images to Lutheran General proximately caused [the decedent’s] death. Here, like in Buck, plaintiff introduced an expert affidavit to create a question of fact on proximate cause. In his affidavit, Dr. Larkins stated that a reasonably qualified physician would have obtained and reviewed the Swedish Covenant CT images, and would have relied on those images to admit and treat [the decedent] for a brain bleed. Thus, plaintiff argues that Swedish Covenant’s failure to transmit the CT images proximately caused [the decedent’s] death … We find that there is a factual question as to whether the doctors at Lutheran General would have treated [the decedent] differently if they had the actual CT images from Swedish Covenant in addition to the CT report … We find that resolution of the conflict between the Lutheran General doctors’ testimony that they would not have changed their treatment plan and plaintiff’s expert’s testimony as to what the standard of care required to treat [the decedent] involves factual findings and credibility determinations that should be left to the jury … there is some evidence in the record that, despite Swedish Covenant’s arguments, under the applicable standard of care the Lutheran General doctors would have acted differently if they were in possession of [the decedent’s] CT images.”

Source Guo v. Kamal, 2020 IL App (1st) 190090.

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