The Illinois Supreme Court has declared legislation imposing a limit, or “cap,” on the amount that a jury can award to the victims of medical malpractice is unconstitutional. In Lebron v Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, the Court held that “statutory caps violate the separation of powers clause of the Illinois Constitution and declared the entire Act invalid.”The case represents a major victory for civil justice. By declaring that a legislature cannot substitute its judgment for that of a jury of citizens, the Illinois Supreme Court has joined a growing number of state supreme courts who have deemed such legislation unconstitutional, or otherwise invalidated such acts.In order to understand what this decision means, it is important to understand what so-called “tort reform” acts “cap.” These acts place a limit, or cap, on what a jury can award in any case for non-monetary damages. These are damages for loss of a normal life, pain and suffering. By placing a uniform limit on these damages, legislatures have, in effect, said that those who are harmed the most should not receive compensation for their losses. The Lebron case is a perfect example:The Lebrons filed suit for injuries their child received during delivery, including severe brain injury, cerebral palsy and cognitive mental impairment. Because of the negligence of the doctor and nurses involved, Abigaile Lebron will never develop normally and will be fed by tube for the rest of her life. And Abigaile is exactly the type of victim of medical malpractice who deserves compensation and, due to tort reform, is exactly the type of patient who is most affected by caps. Because caps act to limit only non-monetary damages, it is the young, the old and those who have low earnings who are most affected by caps. If a 50 year old banker making $250,000 a year is left in the same condition as a 1 year old, that 50 year old banker will be able to show earnings losses in the millions of dollars, in addition to past and future medical bills. But, if the same thing happens to an infant, that infant has no earning history, so it is difficult or impossible to establish those lost earnings. Thus, with caps in place, hospitals and doctors consistently devalue loss of life and injury to the very young and the very old.The Illinois Supreme Court made the right, and just, decision.
A recent article on CNN Health discusses “How to avoid falling victim to a hospital’s mistakes.” The article contains good advice for avoiding identification mistakes such as mixing you up with another patient or operating or performing procedures on the wrong side or wrong body part.Their advice?1. Clearly identify yourself, using your full name and your date of birth and state the reason you are there, such as “I am here for gollbladder surgery”.2. Demand that they check your ID bracelet. Why? Because nurses, techs and doctors are supposed to confirm your identity in two ways–usually verbally and by the ID bracelet.3. Demand that they confirm in your chart what they are doing.4. If having surgery, demand that the surgeon mark up your surgical site before you are anesthetized. Better yet. My advice? Do it yourself! If you are having surgery on your right knee, mark “NOT THIS KNEE” on your left knee. Surgery on the wrong side is not uncommon. It happens so regularly that Medicaid/Medicare has declared that they will no longer pay for such mistakes.5. Be impolite. If you suspect that something is wrong, don’t simply assume that the nurse or doctor is right. Ask questions, demand answers.Your best defense against medical malpractice? Ask questions. Demand answers. Write down what is going on and what is said. If you get conflicting information or orders, demand an explanation. Nurses refer to people who do this as “scribblers.” But if you ask nurses and doctors what they do when their spouse, child, or parent is int he hospital and they will all tell you that they become “scribblers”. You’d much rather be known as a scribbler than need the services of an attorney.But … if you do, please call or contact me.Todd N. Hendrickson, P.C.
We’ve all heard the talking heads and seen the news stories: “There are too many frivolous lawsuits,” “doctors are fleeing because of malpractice suits,” and “malpractice claims have driven up health care costs.” The fact is, these are simple myths touted by the insurance industry to frighten us so that we help them to remain as the most profitable industry in the country.A new paper by the American Association for Justice debunks these myths.For example:Myth: Malpractice claims drive up health care costs.Truth: The total cost of paying and defending malpractice claims is less than 1% of the cost of health care–in fact, .3%.Myth: Doctors are fleeing/Truth: According to the AMA the number of doctors is continually increasing, not decreasing.Myth: Tort reform will lower doctor’s insurance premiums.TruthL Tort reform has never resulted in lower premiums for doctors. What it has resulted in is increasingly larger profits for insurance companies.Know the truth about the malpractice myths.
On October 1, 2009. a jury in the Federal District Court of Southern Illinois in Benton, Illinois returned a $600,000 verdict in a difficult survival action. I represented the Estate of Jennifer DeArmon in a case against Primary Care Group and Dr. Vinay K. Mehta, a general surgeon.After 4 days of evidence, the 7 person jury took less than 90 minutes to find that Dr. Mehta was negligent in perforating the superior vena cava (the main vein returning blood to the heart) while placing a central veinous catheter. Jennifer DeArmon, who suffered from a form of muscular dystrophy, had been wheelchair bound since age 6. Her disease, anterior horn cell disease, progressively weakened her muscles, leaving it difficult for her to cough and clear her lungs, resulting in frequent bouts of pneumonia. She had been hospitalized for two weeks in December 2004 before Dr. Mehta attempted to place the catheter. As a result of the perforation, Jennifer was transferred by air ambulance to another hospital. She was hospitalized for more than 2 months following the perforation and her health deteriorated. In July 2005 she passed away from unrelated causes.It was my honor and pleasure to have met Jennifer shortly before her death and to go on and represent her Estate.If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of medical malpractice, please contact me at 314-721-8833 or use the Contact form on this page.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported on June 11th that Dr. Alexander Kalk, a family practice physician from Creve Coeur, has closed his practice, thrown confidential patient medical records in the trash and has left Missouri. Dr. Kalk was facing licensing discipline from the Missouri Board of Healing Arts. He may also be facing criminal charges regarding his handling of patient medical records.I am familiar with Dr. Kalk, have previously prosecuted a medical malpractice case against him when he was working as a staff physician at a St. Anthony’s walk in clinic. These allegations of bizarre behavior, including living in his medical office, have existed for some years.If you or a family member has been injured as a result of the negligence of Dr. Kalk, you may have a cause of action, not only against him, but quite possibly any hospital that granted him privileges. He was most recently on staff at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. Hospitals generally have a duty to patients to only grant privileges to physicians who are qualified and properly trained. Please contact The Law Office of Todd N. Hendrickson to discuss your case.
The New York Times has reported that Medtronic, a prominent manufacturer of medical devices and products, such as infusers, defibrillators and other items, has paid $788,000 to U.S. Army doctor, Timothy R. Kuklo, who was found to have faked results of a study published in a British medical journal.Dr. Kuklo is now on staff as an assistant medical professor at Washington University, here in St. Louis. Dr. Kuklo is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in adult and pediatric spine surgery.If these allegations prove true, it is shocking that Washington University would employ such a physician to train future generations of orthopedic surgeons. It would also call into question all Medtronics studies. These studies are submitted to the FDA to obtain approval of medical devices and products, and if physicians are being paid what seems to amount to bribes, then the truthfulness of their study results are certainly called into question.If you have any questions or concerns regarding Medtronic products, or care rendered by Dr. Kuklo, please do not hesitate to call The Law Offices of Todd N. Hendrickson. I have successfully prosecuted cases against medical devices manufacturers, hospitals and physicians throughout Missouri and Illinois and I have particular experience in handling orthopedic cases, including hip and knee replacements.
Consumers Union, a national non-profit organization, has just released a new report that follows a landmark report of 10 years ago. Unfortunately, the new report isn’t good news.In To Err is Human – To Delay is Deadly, the group reports that more than 99,000 people die each year in the United States from medical errors. This is up from the figure of 98,000 deaths per year reported by the Institute of Medicine in 1999. In the the intervening 10 years, we have made no progress.What are some of the reasons for this disturbing lack of improvement? Consumer Union reports that, among many reasons, few hospitals have adopted well-known systems to prevent medication errors and that the FDA rarely intervenes. Medicine, as an industry has failed to adopt transparent systems for reporting errors. The medical industry has failed to raise standards for competency of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.Consumers Union makes this disturbing analogy: 99,000 deaths per year is equivalent to a jumbo jet full of passengers crashing and killing everyone on board every other day. In no other industry would Americans allow these kinds of errors to continue to occur.I struggle every day to bring accountability to those who have injured or killed patients. If you or a family member are a victim of medical negligence, contact me at stlpersonalinjury.com.
The Law Offices of Todd N. Hendrickson are accepting cases involving possible surgical site infections caused by contaminated forced air warming devices. In many surgeries hospitals utilize a forced air warming device to maintain the patient’s body temperature. The most commonly used of these devices is Arizant’s Bair Hugger (R). These are essentially large driers which blow hot air through a perforated warming blanket.Our investigations indicate that these devices may trap and contain bacteria, forcing it onto the patient during surgery.If you or a loved one has suffered a surgical site infection you may have a claim. Please contact us to discuss your case.
As a trial lawyer, I’m asked this question all the time: How do you put a dollar figure on a human life? There is no easy answer. Every human life has value and no amount of money can ever replace a life. These contradictory ideas are at the heart of the problems that juries face every day in this country when they are called upon to do just that: place a dollar value on a human life. So, is there any guidance? Actually, there is …The United States places a value on human life all the time. Cold, hard dollar values. The U.S. does this in order to evaluate the costs and benefits of various safety and other programs. The Environmental Protection Agency values a single human life at $7.22 million. The federal Department of Transportation has done the same calculation and has come up with a figure of $5.8 million. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has long held the value of a single human life is $5 million. The U.S. uses these figures like this: If a program would save 3 lives and would cost $10 million, then the cost-benefit analysis would be in favor of spending the money to save those 3 lives.So, if our federal government values a single human life at $5 million dollars or more, then how can various state governments, including Missouri and Illinois, place caps on what a jury can award for a human life, at levels far below the value that our federal government places on a human life? In Missouri, state law caps “non-economic damages” at $350,000 per person. $350,000 is only 7% to less than 5% of the true value. In Illinois, the cap stands at $500,000. These caps are outrageous and should be stricken down and repealed so that a jury can decide, on its own, on the basis of the community’s shared values and beliefs, the value of a human life.