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Six Recent NOT GUILTY Verdicts from Around the Firm

11/08/2012

Between the middle of September and late October, Heyl Royster attorneys obtained six not guilty verdicts in six different jurisdictions (venues) around the state! The cases involved a variety of issues ranging from a Federal wiretap claim to vehicular accidents to medical malpractice claims.

Medical Malpractice (Urbana office)

Renee Monfort and Cheri Stuart of the firm's Urbana office, tried a medical malpractice case in Kankakee County. In this case, the diabetic plaintiff alleged 3 defendant internists failed to properly diagnose/treat her ankle pain & swelling over a 10-month period during which her condition worsened to the point that she had avascular necrosis (AVN) of her talus (a bone in her foot) with collapse and diagnosis 6 months after she left defendants' care. Subsequent fusion failed and was complicated by infection leaving plaintiff with an open wound for over 1 year and ultimately requiring below knee amputation and subsequent difficulty using a prosthetic limb and inability to work due to pain. Defendants contended they appropriately relied on an x-ray report from her first visit which was incorrectly read as normal when there were abnormalities including evidence of AVN on the film. They further claimed plaintiff was contributorily negligent by failing to follow reasonable medical advice (follow up visits, diabetic teaching, rehab post surgery, stop smoking, & seek care during the 6 months prior to diagnosis). Defendants also contended plaintiff's outcome was influenced by her comorbidities (diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, obesity) and her smoking. The plaintiff asked the jury for $1.8 - 2.2 million. The jury found the defendants not guilty.

Vehicular Accident (Springfield office)

Matt Booker and Doug Bitner from the firm's Springfield office obtained a defense verdict in Macomb, McDonough County, Illinois. Plaintiffs brought suit against a Sheriff's Deputy and the Sheriff's Department alleging willful and wanton conduct and negligence in the wake of an accident occurring during a high speed pursuit. Plaintiffs (a mother, daughter and family friend) were traveling to Macomb, Illinois to visit a family friend. The Sheriff's deputy was in the process of pursuing a vehicle that had sped off after a traffic stop. Speeds of both cars were over 100 mph as they entered the city limits of Macomb. Plaintiff's vehicle, unaware of the pursuit despite the fact that the Deputy had lights and sirens activated, turned in front of the Deputy's vehicle. The passenger, a married mother of three, was killed. The driver, the daughter of the passenger, was seriously injured, as was the rear-seat passenger. Plaintiff's asked the jury for $5,800,000 in addition to an unspecified award for punitive damages. After three hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants.

Vehicular Accident (Peoria office)

Dave Perkins of the firm's Peoria office tried a case in Pekin, Tazewell County, Illinois. The plaintiff's motorcycle collided with an SUV operated by the defendant. Defendant entered a T-intersection and was turning left at a yield sign when the accident occurred. The plaintiff's movement was not controlled by a traffic control device. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff sustained a fractured right clavicle, sprained wrist, laceration to his lip, and various abrasions and contusions to his right lower extremity. He incurred medical bills of $13,600 and was unable to complete a college semester because of his injuries and post-accident physical therapy. Plaintiff asked the jury for $25,000. Verdict: Not Guilty

Medical Malpractice (Rockford office)

Doug Pomatto and Mike Denning of the firm's Rockford office tried a case for an obstetrician/gynecologist in Rock Island County. The plaintiff claimed that while our client doctor was closing an abdominal incision following a post-partum tubal ligation, her small bowel became incorporated into the fascial sutures, leading to the development of peritonitis and necessitating subsequent surgeries. The plaintiff filed an ordinary medical negligence count and also maintained an allegation of res ipsa loquitur, alleging that the incorporation of the bowel in this fashion would only have happened if the surgeon was negligent. The defense contended that this injury was an uncommon but known complication of this surgery. The plaintiff asked the jury for $1,325,000. After deliberating for two hours, the jury returned a not guilty verdict.

Wrongful Death and Survival Action (Rockford office)

Mark McClenathan and Kathy Stockwell of the firm's Rockford office tried a wrongful death case in LaSalle County. The plaintiff's decedent drove through a stop sign at approximately 40 mph without stopping due to heavy fog, and struck trailer of 18 wheel semi truck being driven by defendant. Plaintiff sued the truck driver and his employer. The defendant driver had right of way. The plaintiff alleged defendants violated various federal regulations, and trucking standards, including Section 392.14 which requires using "extreme caution" in "hazardous conditions" due to "reduced visibility" caused by heavy fog. The plaintiff argued that the defendants should be held to higher standard. The plaintiff's attorney conceded at trial that the plaintiff's decedent was negligent for not stopping, but argued that the truck should not have been on the road due to heavy fog and that the plaintiff's decedent would not have died if the "unseen" truck was not on the road. Defendant driver did not testify and never gave a deposition as he died of cancer soon after the accident. The survival action was disputed: plaintiff's decedent either did not have conscious pain and suffering, or if he did, only for 2 minutes or less. Experts testified on liability (accident reconstructionists and trucking regulations and standards), and on whether the plaintiff's decedent survived the crash and was ejected from his car, or crawled out (biomechanic and reconstructionists). The jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Federal Wiretap Claim (Urbana office)

Tamara Hackmann and retired partner Jim Kearns of the firm's Urbana office tried a case in Federal Court in Urbana. Plaintiff sued the defendants for eavesdropping under the Federal Wiretap Act. The plaintiff alleged an employee of the hospital entered a physician's office and turned on his Dictaphone for the purpose of recording a conversation between the physician and the plaintiff. After a two day jury trial, a not guilty verdict was returned. The physician also filed a lawsuit under the State Wiretap Act; the firm received notice on November 6 that our Motion to Dismiss the state court action has been granted.