A jury has awarded more than $14.3 million to the parents of a child who died after being born with severe brain damage, finding the largest provider of medical malpractice insurance in Illinois acted in bad faith in allegedly misleading doctors the family had sued, leaving the doctors to fill a coverage gap of more than $1 million following a jury verdict against them – a coverage gap the doctors said they were led to believe would not exist.
On Nov. 10, a Cook County jury found in favor of plaintiffs Alizabeth and Elvin Hana, who had sued ISMIE Mutual Insurance Company for allegedly misleading the doctors into taking the malpractice case to trial six years ago instead of settling for the amount of their insurance coverage.
The verdict followed a one-week trial in Cook County Circuit Court with Judge Irwin J. Solganick presiding.
The lawsuit, filed in June 2015, stemmed from the death of the Hana’s daughter, Mary, who was born in 2004 in Chicago with a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation. Mary lived in a vegetative state almost three years before she died in July 2007.
The Hanas sued obstetricians Albert Chams and Joyce Chams, of Chams Women’s Health Care, who had treated Alizabeth during her pregnancy, alleging wrongful death. The case went to trial in May 2009 and a jury awarded the family $6.2 million.
However, the Hanas soon learned ISMIE, which had insured the doctors and had represented them at trial, had actually covered the doctors for up to $5 million. This, the Hanas said, left them almost $1.4 million short of the amount ordered by the court.
The doctors then assigned to the couple their cause of action against ISMIE for bad faith and breach of fiduciary duty.
The Hanas alleged ISMIE concealed from the doctors ISMIE’s belief the Hanas would have settled for an amount less than $5 million, and told the doctors the insurer was interested in settling, while actually having no intention of doing so. ISMIE also allegedly did not properly explain to the doctors the true limits of their coverage, the complaint said.
And ISMIE further allegedly misled the doctors as to the true risk of the case going to trial.
“ISMIE misled the insured (the doctors) into believing that there was significantly more coverage than was available, and, therefore, less personal financial risk to the insured,” the Hanas said in their June 2015 complaint.
The Hanas had sought the $1.4 million owed them, plus interest, and an award of $10 million in punitive damages for ISMIE’s alleged deceptive actions.
The jury also found ISMIE had acted in bad faith, and ordered $1.35 million in compensatory damages and $13 million more in punitive damages.
The Hanas were represented by the firm of Burke Wise Morrisey & Kaveny, of Chicago.
ISMIE was represented by the firm of Stamos & Trucco, of Chicago.