Tag Archives: Illinois medical malpractice decisions

An Overview of Illinois Supreme Court Medical Malpractice Decisions

By Suzanne Gillen on June 26, 2014 | Posted in Blog

In the last few years, the Illinois Supreme Court has addressed various issues in the context of medical malpractice cases.  The following cases provide guidance in the area of medical/healthcare malpractice with respect to wrongful birth, negligent infliction of emotional distress, res judicata, Statute of Limitations, Statute of Repose and punitive damages:

Wrongful Birth & Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Clark v. Children’s Memorial Hospital, 353 Ill.Dec. 254 (2011)

Plaintiffs were claiming wrongful birth and expenses of caring for their disabled child.  Plaintiffs’ first child was born with a genetic mutation resulting in Angleman Syndrome.  They claimed that they were not made aware of this condition, and that they would not have conceived their second child if they had been advised of the risks of giving birth to a child with the same condition.  The Plaintiffs made a claim for wrongful birth and for expenses of caring for a disabled child after reaching the age of majority.  The Court held that the claim for the expenses was properly dismissed because Illinois does not require parents to support children after the age of majority.

However, the Court held that the “zone of danger” test does not apply to Plaintiffs who seek compensation for emotional damages as an element of damages for the tort of wrongful birth.

Thornton v. Garcini, 237 Ill.2d 100 (2009)

This case involved a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.  The facts of this case involve a premature birth where the head of the child became stuck inside of the mother while the rest of his body was delivered.  The baby died when the nurses were unable to complete the delivery.  The doctor was notified but arrived 1 hour and 10 minutes after the death of the baby.

The issue in this case was whether a Plaintiff is required to present expert testimony to support a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.  In reaching the conclusion, the Supreme Court recognized that there may be instances when expert testimony can aid a jury in identifying how and when strong emotions produce symptoms in patients.  However, the Court also recognized that jurors from their own experience are able to determine whether specific conduct can result in severe emotional disturbance.  Consequently, the existence or non-existence of medical testimony goes to the weight of the evidence but does not prevent this issue from being submitted to the jury.

The Court held that based on personal experience alone, i.e. the partial birth and death of a child whose head becomes stuck inside the mother while the rest of his body was outside of the mother and which remained that way for 1 hour and 10 minutes before the doctor’s arrival, the jury could reasonably find that the circumstances of the case caused the Plaintiff emotional distress.  In fact, the Plaintiff explicitly testified with respect to the experience of having her deceased infant protrude from her body for over an hour while awaiting the doctor’s arrival.  Consequently, the Court held that expert testimony was not required to prove Plaintiff’s case of negligent infliction of emotional distress. Read More…

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