The Supreme Court of the State of Illinois (“Illinois Supreme Court”) held in its opinion filed on April 2, 2020 that the Illinois birth injury medical malpractice plaintiffs failed to file the appropriate post-trial motion regarding the jury’s defense verdict on their medical negligence claim (“The procedural methods required for preserving questions for review were clearly not complied with by the failure to file a proper post-trial motion challenging the jury’s verdict”) and therefore remanded the case to the circuit court in order to conduct a new trial on the issue of informed consent only.
The Underlying Facts
The plaintiffs filed an Illinois birth injury medical malpractice lawsuit alleging both a medical negligence claim and a lack of informed consent claim.
Medical Negligence Claim
The negligence claim alleged negligent professional conduct during the birth of the baby. During the baby’s June 17, 2005 natural delivery, he suffered shoulder dystocia, which is an obstructed labor whereby, after the delivery of the head, one or both shoulders of an infant cannot pass or requires significant manipulation. As a result, he suffered a broken clavicle and extensive nerve damage in his right shoulder, arm, and hand.
Informed Consent Claim
The informed consent claim alleged that prior to birth, the defendant failed to diagnose the baby with fetal macrosomia because she failed to recognize the significance of the mother’s fundal heights, failed to assess the fetal weight, and failed to order an ultrasound prior to inducing labor. As a result, the plaintiffs claim that the defendant failed to inform the mother of the risks and benefits of vaginal birth as opposed to Caesarean section, failed to inform her of the high risk of shoulder dystocia and brachial plexus injury in the event of a vaginal birth, and failed to offer the mother the option of delivering her baby by Caesarean section, given the baby’s large size.
The circuit court granted the defendant’s motion for a directed verdict on the issue of informed consent. Thereafter, following additional evidence and argument, the Illinois birth injury jury returned a verdict in the defendant’s favor and against the plaintiffs on their remaining claim of professional negligence.
After the circuit court entered the judgment on the jury’s verdict, the plaintiffs did not file any post-trial motions. Instead, on October 15, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a timely notice of appeal.
The Illinois Appellate Court in Crim I reversed the circuit court’s judgment and remanded the case to the circuit court. The Illinois Appellate Court limited its decision to an analysis of the partial directed verdict on the issue of informed consent, stating it need not address the subsequent proceedings following the directed verdict because it is not pertinent to the resolution of this case. The Illinois Appellate Court mandate stated, “the order on appeal from the circuit court be REVERSED and the cause be remanded to the Circuit Court for the Eighth Judicial Circuit Adams County, for such other proceedings as required by order of this court.”
Upon remand, the parties disagreed on what issues and facts could be retried. The defendant filed a motion in limine to exclude the presentation of any evidence relating to the plaintiffs’ negligent delivery claim, thereby requesting the new trial be conducted solely on the issue of informed consent. The defendant argued that the Illinois Appellate Court’s opinion addressed only the informed consent claim and, therefore, the only issue and facts that should be retried are those related to the plaintiffs’ informed consent claim. The defendant further noted that the plaintiffs forfeited their right to have a new trial on their professional negligence claim because they failed to file a post-trial motion as required by section 2-1202 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
In Crim II, the Illinois Appellate Court determined that, because Crim I issued a general remand without specific instructions, a new trial should be held on all issues, including the issue of professional negligence.
Illinois Supreme Court Opinion
The Illinois Supreme Court stated: “whether a post-trial motion is required to preserve alleged error, turns on the question of whether the jury rendered a decision on an issue being challenged before a reviewing court. That is precisely the situation here, where plaintiffs request that the new trial should be conducted on an issue decided by a jury. Because the jury made a factual determination on the issue of professional negligence and the circuit court entered judgment based on that determination, plaintiffs’ reliance on cases that follow Keen and its progeny in support of their argument that no post-trial motion is required is misplaced. Therefore, without filing a post-trial motion as required by section 2-1202, plaintiffs forfeited their right to request a new trial on the issue of professional negligence … The failure by plaintiffs to file a post-trial motion challenging the jury’s verdict deprived the circuit court of an opportunity to correct any trial errors involving the jury’s verdict and undermined any notion of fairness to defendant on appeal. Moreover, as a result, plaintiffs failed to preserve any challenge to the jury’s verdict for appellate review … The procedural methods required for preserving questions for review were clearly not complied with by the failure to file a proper post-trial motion challenging the jury’s verdict.”
The Illinois Supreme Court further stated, “when the appellate court in Crim I found that the circuit court erred in granting defendant’s motion for a directed verdict on the issue of informed consent, the appellate court ruled on the merits of the case before it. Therefore, the appellate court’s mandate could not remand the matter for a new trial on an issue never raised and not considered.”
Source Crim v. Dietrich, 2020 IL 124318.
If you or a loved one have suffered serious harm as a result of a birth injury, such as a brachial plexus injury, in Illinois or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find an Illinois medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your birth injury medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a birth injury medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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