After oral argument, the Second District Appellate Court upheld a jury verdict for the defense in a case in which the plaintiff sought $3.4 million for the lost function of his right arm from our hospital client. In his appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial court should not have allowed testimony from the defense expert concerning proximate cause, alleging that the testimony was highly speculative and prejudicial. In addition, plaintiff claimed that defense counsel’s closing argument remarks concerning plaintiff’s drug use also were prejudicial. The Appellate Court found that the plaintiff was not unfairly prejudiced by either claim of error and affirmed the trial court’s defense verdict.
At the initial trial in DuPage County, plaintiff alleged that he developed compartment syndrome because he laid on his arm for many hours without moving due to medication administered at the hospital, which allegedly impaired his level of consciousness. The treating orthopedic surgeon wrote in consult that the condition likely resulted from lying on the arm for a prolonged period of time. Plaintiff was admitted to the psychiatric hospital with suicidal ideation and homicidal ideation and was being monitored every 15 minutes for safety. However, there was no documentation of any nursing assessment for an 8-hour period during the day. In safety checks he was charted as “sleeping” for 8 hours. Plaintiff presented expert testimony that the nurses were negligent in that they allowed the patient to sleep all day without assessing his status. The defense presented testimony from two expert witnesses, a professor of nursing concerning the issue of nursing standard of care and a noted psychiatrist with a Ph.D. in Neurobiology concerning the issue of proximate cause. The defense presented evidence that compartment syndrome developed due to the patient's prior cocaine use in conjunction with polysubstance abuse and Bipolar Disorder, each a risk factor for vascular disease. The defense successfully defended the complete lack of charting by the nurses by persuading the jury there were routine interactions between the patient and the nurses which were not charted.
Johnson & Bell Shareholders, Margaret (Peggy) Unger and Lynn M. Reid, secured the defense verdict in the trial court. Garrett L. Boehm, Jr. obtained affirmance of the defense verdict before the Appellate Court.