A Hinsdale hospital and a group of doctors will need to defend themselves in Cook County against a wrongful death and malpractice suit brought by a woman whose father died, after an appeals court ruled the case should not be transferred to DuPage County.
On Dec. 6, a panel of the First District Appellate Court issued an unpublished order overturning the judgment of Cook County Circuit Judge Kathy M. Flanagan, who granted the defendants' request to move the case to DuPage County because they believed Wheaton would be a more convenient forum.
That judgment had been rendered despite the objections of plaintiff Jennifer Chadd, an Indiana resident who sued Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and four doctors: Leonard Potempa, Yangesh Dave, Ali Bawamia, and Charles Kinder.
Also named as defendants in the suit were three medical practice groups: the Nephrology Associates of Northern Illinois and Indiana, which employed Potempa; AIMS Hospitalist Group, a practice group with which Dave and Bawamia were affiliated; and Heartcare Centers of Illinois S.C.
The case arose following the 2008 death of Chadd’s father, Dennis Stutler.
On May 21, 2008, Stutler, of Indiana, was admitted to Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital “for treatment of a condition of ill-being,” according to the appellate court's order. He was subsequently transferred to Adventist Hinsdale, where he received treatment, including from the doctors named as defendants in Chadd's suit.
Nine days after first being admitted, Stutler died “as a result of complications from severe hypoglycemia,” the order notes.
Chadd sued for wrongful death about two years later in May 2010, alleging that her father’s death was the result of the doctors’ failure to properly diagnose and treat his condition. She alleged, for example, that the doctors overdosed her father with insulin and did not properly treat his diabetic condition.
In September 2010, the defendants first moved to transfer the case to DuPage County under the doctrine of forum non conveniens.
They asserted, then and in subsequent court filings, that hearing the case in DuPage County would allow them and other potential witnesses affiliated with Adventist Hinsdale and their associated medical practices to more easily schedule their work around potential court proceedings.
They also claimed that DuPage County could more easily and speedily handle the case, alleging that DuPage courts handle only a fraction of the cases that move through the Cook County Circuit Court.
Chadd opposed the transfer to DuPage County, arguing that the Cook County forum would be more convenient for her and the witnesses she intended to call from Indiana. Her attorney also noted that most of the doctor defendants either lived in or had offices in Cook County, as well as DuPage County, making the transfer legally questionable.
In November 2012, the circuit judge sided with the hospital and doctors and ordered the case transferred to DuPage.
The appellate court, however, determined the Cook County judge had erred.
Justice William Henry Taylor II wrote the appellate order, and Justices Robert E. Gordon and Margaret Stanton McBride concurred.
The panel ruled that under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, the plaintiff’s choice of location takes precedence, unless certain mitigating factors arise. And, the justices determined, in this case, they do not.
On behalf of the panel. Taylor noted that the doctors practice medicine in Cook County. And, as a result, he wrote, hearing the case in Cook County would not represent an inconvenience for them.
Taylor also wrote for the court that a Cook County forum would satisfy the public interest requirements under the doctrine, as Cook County residents would have just as much interest in the outcome of the case as those in DuPage County.
“Given the totality of circumstances in this case, particularly the fact that multiple defendants practice medicine on a regular basis in Cook County, and taking into account the deference to be granted to plaintiff’s choice of forum, we find that the relevant factors do not ‘strongly favor transfer,’” Taylor wrote.