Illinois Court of Appeal Discusses the Role of Jury Instructions in Wrongful Death Appeal

During trial, there comes a moment when the court must decide which instructions to give the jury before it begins its deliberations. These instructions are what the jury will use to determine whether the defendant is liable to the plaintiff and how much compensation the plaintiff is entitled to receive. This can be one of the most pivotal moments of your case and an important reason to consult with a seasoned Chicago personal injury lawyer. At Therman Law Offices, our team is available to help you navigate the civil court system and to ensure that your rights are protected.

Recently, the Illinois Court of Appeal heard an appeal in a case involving the death of a woman who sought treatment at a hospital. A major issue in the case was whether the court gave the right instructions to the jury. The plaintiff filed a negligence and wrongful action against hospital professionals alleging that they caused the death of her mother. The complaint included a number of causes of action. At the close of evidence, the court instructed the jury on a number of aspects including a rule about missing evidence. The plaintiff requested a number of jury instructions including an instruction on the loss of chance doctrine and missing evidence related to a document that the plaintiff alleged was missing. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s request to include both instructions.

The jury ultimately found for the defendants and the plaintiff appealed, alleging that the court’s failure to include the loss of chance instruction was a reversible error. The appellate court agreed with the plaintiff. The appellate court stated that the plaintiff offered enough evidence to support the use of the loss of chance doctrine and that the matter should have been put before the jury to evaluate. Additionally, the jury instruction that the plaintiff submitted to the court was simple, brief, impartial, and non-argumentative. Because the court failed to give this instruction, the appellate court concluded that the plaintiff was denied the opportunity for a fair trial and reversed the entry of judgment for the defendants.

The appellate court disagreed with the plaintiff that the lower court erred in refusing to give the plaintiff’s requested missing evidence instruction. The appellate court concluded that the plaintiff was not prejudiced by the court’s failure to give the instruction because it allowed the plaintiffs to describe whatever inferences they felt the jury should draw from the defendant’s failure to produce an allegedly missing piece of evidence. Also, a witness familiar with the missing evidence was available to testify and the plaintiff had an opportunity to cross-examine her.

If you or a loved one suffered injury because of someone else’s carelessness, you may be entitled to compensation. At Therman Law Offices, we understand how stressful and complicated this process can be. One of the most important steps you can take in a Chicago personal injury lawsuit is to make sure that you are following all the rules. We offer a free and private consultation to discuss your potential case and whether we can help you. Call our office today at 773-545-8849 or contact us online to learn more. Don’t wait, time may be running out on your claim.

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