Illinois Appellate Court Finds Lower Court Committed Error in Ruling on Parties’ Motions in Limine in Medical Malpractice Paraplegia Case

In any personal injury lawsuit, understanding which evidence you and the other party can submit is a critical aspect of protecting your right to recovery. Some cases are complex and involve challenging evidentiary issues that could make or break your ability to recover damages. As seasoned Chicago personal injury lawyers, we are well versed in the rules of evidence and can use our knowledge to help you ensure that you are treated fairly. A recent appellate case demonstrates how difficult these evidentiary issues can become.

In 2012, the defendant doctor performed a procedure on the plaintiff consisting of a celiac plexus block. Following surgery, the plaintiff reported numbness in her legs. She was taken to the hospital, where it was concluded that she suffered a vasospasm and related paraplegia. The plaintiff and her husband filed a lawsuit against the doctor, asserting claims for medical negligence and loss of consortium. A few years after the claim was filed, the plaintiff died as a result of a stroke. The surviving husband amended the complaint to include a claim for the wrongful death of his wife, based on the alleged negligence of the defendant doctor. The plaintiff included many different counts of negligence regarding the celiac plexus procedure, including a failure to treat his wife’s condition with less aggressive and intensive methods. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant lacked privileges to perform the procedure at the hospital.

Before trial, the parties filed a number of motions in limine. These are motions that seek to resolve certain evidentiary issues before trial, such as which type of evidence can be admitted or whether there are any issues that the parties wish to exclude from the trial before the proceedings. One of the motions in limine that the defendant filed sought to exclude evidence regarding the issue of whether the defendant had privileges to perform the procedure at the hospital. The plaintiff also filed a motion in limine wanting to bar any evidence regarding the decedent’s history as a smoker. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion barring evidence about the decedent’s smoking history while reserving a ruling on the defendant’s motion regarding the defendant’s privileges at the hospital.

At the close of trial, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff in excess of $7 million, and the defendant filed a motion for a new trial, raising the issue of the motions in limine. The trial court denied the motion for a new trial, and the defendant appealed. The appellate court first reviewed the defendant’s motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence about the defendant’s privileges. The appellate court concluded that the lower court erred in denying this motion, finding that the issue of whether or not he had privileges to perform the procedure at the hospital was not relevant to whether he performed the procedure negligently. Admitting evidence regarding his privileges could distract the jury from determining whether or not he abided by the standard of care. The appellate court also concluded it was an error to exclude evidence of the decedent’s smoking history.

If you suffered injuries as a result of a medical professional’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. At Therman Law Offices, our seasoned team of personal injury attorneys has handled a wide variety of claims on behalf of Chicago residents, including claims involving medical malpractice. These cases can be complicated, and it’s not always clear how you can go about protecting your legal rights while maximizing your recovery. We offer a free consultation to help you learn more about how we can assist you and whether you have a potential claim. Call us now at 773-545-8849 or contact us online.

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