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Johnson, Connery Secure Defense Verdict in Favor of Physician and Hospital in Negligent Hospital Discharge Case

January 21, 2022

Johnson & Bell Shareholder, Matthew L. Johnson, and Associate Attorney, Margaret A. Connery, secured a defense verdict for their hospital client and its treating physician in a Cook County, IL, lawsuit seeking approximately $1.7 million in damages. In this case, plaintiff was admitted to defendant hospital for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident.  Following a trauma work-up, the patient was diagnosed with a stable neck fracture and treated with an Aspen collar 24-hours/day.  Following discharge from the hospital, subsequent imaging revealed the fracture had become unstable.  Ultimately, a fusion surgery on plaintiff was required, which left him with approximately 50 percent loss of cervical rotation and residual pain.  Five years later, plaintiff died of unrelated causes.

Plaintiff’s estate sued the hospitalist who discharged the patient from the hospital, alleging that the patient required “24/7 supervision” and should have been discharged either to an acute inpatient rehab facility or nursing home in order to ensure compliance with the Aspen collar. As a result of the allegedly negligent discharge, plaintiff’s neck fracture dislocated, and he required a fusion surgery which led to his total disability.

Defense argued that given the plaintiff’s injuries from the car accident, he had up to a 50 percent chance of needing the fusion spine surgery even with total compliance with wearing the collar. Plaintiff testified, prior to his death, that in fact he wore the collar 24/7. Expert testimony from an internist and spine surgeon supported the defense that the discharge was timely and appropriate as the hospitalist planned for plaintiff to stay with his brother, have a transitional nurse visit a few days after the discharge, wear the collar 24/7, and closely follow-up with his surgeon.

After a two-week trial, the 12-person jury deliberated for an hour before returning a verdict for the defense.  

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