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I write this Blog mostly for people who interested in law, especially injury claims. I do a radio show on legal issues Saturday at Noon. If you want to hire a lawyer, call me at 217-789-1977 or email me.

The Supreme Court eliminated the public duty rule in the case of Coleman vs East Joliet Fire Protection District. The common-law public duty rule provided that governmental entities, such as fire and police entities, were immune from liability for things like responding to calls. In Coleman the court got rid of the immunity and substituted willful and wanton misconduct as the test for governmental liability.

In Coleman plaintiff resided with her husband in an unincorporated area of Will County. She called 911 indicating that her husband could not breathe and needed an ambulance. She asked the person on the 911 line to hurry because she was worried about her husband’s health. The 911 responders went to the wrong address. 41 minutes later the ambulance arrived. Plaintiff’s decedent died of pulmonary edema at 58 years old.

The trial court granted summary judgment for the public entity, basically dismissing the plaintiff’s case. The appellate court affirmed.

An old case, Abood, holds that unions can require nonunion members to pay their fair share of union dues because they benefit from the union negotiating for them. Abood said this applies to public sector jobs like state jobs.  Abood v. Detroit Bd. Of Ed., 431 U.S. 209, 232 (1977). Specifically, Abood says a state may allow public sector unions to charge nonunion members fees “insofar as the service charges are applied to collective-bargaining, contract administration, and grievance-adjustment purposes.” 431 U.S. at 232.

However, the Supreme Court recently suggested the opposite. In Harris v Quinn 573 U.S. ___ (2014) the court held that the First Amendment prohibits a State from forcing non-union members to pay for union speech on matters of public concern. Specifically, the Supreme Court wrote as follows:

“This case presents the question whether the First Amendment permits a State to compel personal care providers to subsidize speech on matters of public concern by a union that they do not wish to join or support. We hold that it does not, and we therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.”

In Illinois the Supreme Court adopted the “Illinois Rules of Evidence.”  They are found here. As a practitioner, it is nice to have what is supposed to be the law on evidence spelled out in a simple document.

I had the honor of attending the committee meetings and speaking about an objection to the way they were drafted on a certain technical issue.  At the committee the people who drafted the rules indicated that they were not meant to change Illinois law on evidence. In other words, the rules are supposed to describe existing evidence law, not create new law.

Since the Supreme Court adopted the rules I was concerned about the “Learned Treatise” doctrine. Now for those of you who do not know what I mean by the learned treatise doctrine, in federal court and in Illinois prior to the adoption of the Illinois Rules of Evidence, a lawyer was allowed to impeach a witness who testified inconsistently with an authoritative document described in the law as a learned treatise. The theory is that if a book on the subject is authoritative and the witness testifies inconsistently, either the witness does not know what they are talking about or the witness may not be completely honest.

In James Hausman versus Holland America the jury awarded 21.5 million in favor of plaintiff James Hausman. The case took nine days in federal court in Seattle. The plaintiff’s lawyer was Rick Friedman, author of books entitled Rules of the Road and Polarizing the Case, among others. Part 1 of my interview with Rick is below.

Part 2 is below.

While in Illinois enforces personal-injury waiver forms, they have to be very specific. This was demonstrated in the case entitled Offord vs Fitness International, LLC (LA Fitness) 2015 IL App (1st) 150879.

I suppose at the outset I should disclose that I am a member of LA fitness in Springfield Illinois. The injury we’re discussing occurred in Cook County Illinois, which is about three hours away. I like our local LA fitness, but have no particular affiliation with them other than I work out at one.

In Offord, LA fitness had required the person using the facilities to sign a waiver, as do many health clubs. This particular waiver said that the person using the premises releases and holds harmless and agrees not to sue the health club for any and all claims from the use of the facilities “facilities, services, equipment or premises.”

We had Christine Scott on the air with her lawyer quite some time ago to discuss her trial over vaginal mesh case. Partially as a result, James Ackerman got involved in some vaginal mesh litigation and is actively interested in these issues.  There are currently 70,000 vaginal mesh cases pending in federal court in a multi-district  litigation. Vaginal mesh is the biggest type of civil lawsuit pending in federal court. All the rest of other cases pending in all the federal courts do not total number of vaginal mesh cases pending.

Christine Scott filed a complaint against Bard entered Dr. concerning the implantation of her vaginal mesh. Her doctor had watched a DVD on this surgical technique. However, he did not bother to read instructions for use. He implanted vaginal mesh. After the surgery Christine could not urinate, and was in pain. She had multiple surgeries to try to fix the problems and a sixth surgery to extrude mesh and to release mesh tension. Following that she was in excruciating pain due to nerve damage, had pain during sex, and lost control of her bowels. The jury awarded Christine 5 million in damages and her husband 500,000 for loss of consortium. The jury found her doctor’s negligence was not a substantial factor in causing the Scotts harm, but assigned 40% fault to her. Accordingly, the court reduced the Scotts noneconomic damages by 40% and entered judgment for 3.3 1 million per Christine and 300 for her husband.

Bard appeal. It claimed that the negligence theories were improperly instructed to the jury. Bard argued that it could not be strictly liable for design defect. The court found that Bard was right about that, but just because it was immune for strict liability does not make it immune for negligence. The court determined that the jury was properly instructed on negligence.

As an attorney who handles medical negligence, workers compensation and other injury claims I see and talk to numerous people who have bad surgical results. Quite frankly, many of them are not necessarily the doctors’ fault. On the other hand, there are clearly too many medical complications. This is been studied many times. The studies conclude that patients who go to the hospital take a risk in going there.

To a large extent, the outcome of a given procedure is not in the hands of the patient. It is very difficult for patients to know what physician is good at any given procedure or what medical institution does a decent job of providing medical care.

Fortunately, ProPublica has done a large study of medical providers and their complication rates. The Surgeon Scorecard is here.  This database studies surgeons throughout the United States and calculates death and complication rates for various types of surgeries. My video discussing this database is here.

The Illinois Supreme Court took the Turcois v Debruler case. We reported about the appellate decision here. This case involved a fascinating set of facts. The   plaintiff rented an apartment by the defendant. The defendant, within 30 days of the plaintiff rented the property, began knocking the building down around the plaintiff and his family. The family and the defendant were obviously upset by the defendant’s conduct. The plaintiffs’ decedent then committed suicide. The details are reported in the case; I will not re-state them all here.

The appellate court had held that the plaintiff could pursue the cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress and could seek damages for the suicide. The appellate court cited the Restatement of Torts, which is frequently considered very authoritative, in its decision.

The Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court and dismissed the counts concerning suicide.  The Supreme Court reasoned that a plaintiff must get past two hurdles, cause in fact, and cause in law.  Proximate cause, also known as cause in law, is limited by foreseeability, according to the Supreme Court.

Zofran (ondansetron) is an antinausea drug. It is intended for significant nausea issues caused by things like chemotherapy. However, Glaxo SmithKline also marketed it for use with pregnant women. The problem was that Glaxo SmithKline had failed to do any testing of the drug with pregnant women.  In 2006, prior to its becoming available in a generic form, Zofran was among the top selling drugs in the United States. The FDA estimated that number nearly a quarter of Zofran prescriptions were given to pregnant women.

As early as 2006, in a study published in Hong Kong, concerns were raised about the use with pregnant women. The Hong Kong study concluded that Zofran cross the placenta to the fetus. More studies were done. In 2011 a British study concluded that women who took Zofran were over twice as likely to have babies with congenital defects, including cleft palates. In August 2013 a Danish study found that children were to four times more likely to have babies born with congenital heart defects. It is clear that additional studies are needed.

Glaxo Smith Kline engaged in illegal conduct in its off label marketing of Zofran. Giving Zofran to pregnant women is considered off label use.  In July 2012 Glaxo Smith Kline entered into a settlement agreement with the United States Department of Justice to resolve claims that it illegally marketed Zofran, among other drugs. It agreed to pay a fine of $1 billion, which included a criminal fine and a forfeiture. It also agreed to pay another 2 billion to resolve claims by the government under the False Claims Act. The settlement resolves criminal issues, alleged by the federal government, that Glaxo Smith Kline had paid kickbacks to healthcare providers to get them to prescribe drugs.

We had the honor of having George Patrick, a workers compensation lawyer from Indiana, on the radio on Saturday, March 14, 2015, Pi day.  This is especially interesting to me because I have heard so many people talk about the differences between the Illinois Worker’s Compensation system in the Indiana Workers Compensation System.  Some people believe that Illinois should save money by following in the footsteps of Indiana.

This interview followed the recent ProPublic/NPR report about how states are demolishing their workers compensation systems.  Judges have called the modern workers compensation systems “inhumane” according to ProPublica/NPR.