The parents of a child, who died because of medical malpractice, are suing the insurance company of some of the doctors involved, alleging the company owes the parents more than $1 million in an unpaid judgment and should pay another $10 million for allegedly pulling the wool over the eyes of the doctors as to how much coverage was available to pay the parents.
Alizabeth and Elvin Hana’s daughter, Mary, was born in 2004 in Chicago with a brain injury, caused by deprivation of oxygen. Mary lived in a vegetative state almost three years, dying July 11, 2007.
Obstetricians Albert Chams and Joyce Chams, of Chams Women’s Health Care, treated Alizabeth during her pregnancy.
The parents filed a wrongful death suit and a survivors claim against the doctors in Cook County Circuit Court in 2005. The case went to trial in May 2009, and a jury found for the parents, awarding them $6.2 million. The doctors were insured by ISMIE Mutual Insurance Company, with a $3 million policy limit for the death and $2 million for the survivors claim.
ISMIE paid $3.3 million to the plaintiffs. Other defendants, including emergency room doctors, had settled before trial for $1.5 million.
ISMIE appealed, but the judgment was affirmed in August 2011. ISMIE tried to have the Supreme Court of Illinois hear the matter, but that court declined in January 2012.
The parents are saying ISMIE owes them $1.4 million, plus interest of $333 per day and $121,500 per year since the judgment was ordered.
The doctors assigned to the Hanas their cause of action for bad faith against ISMIE. The parents pursued the matter, then voluntarily dismissed the case May 26, 2015, refiling this month.
The Hanas alleged ISMIE concealed from the doctors ISMIE’s belief the parents would have settled before or during trial for an amount less than policy limits, which would have protected the doctors from the resulting judgment exceeding the limits. At the same time, ISMIE told the doctors ISMIE was willing to settle, while actually having no intention of settling.
The parents further alleged ISMIE never explained to the doctors that, of the $5 million coverage, $3 million would cover the death claim – the chief financial risk to the doctors – and $2 million would cover the survivors claim, a “comparatively insignificant” claim, posing no personal risk to the doctors.
“ISMIE misled the insured (the doctors) into believing that there was significantly more insurance coverage available and, therefore, less personal financial risk to the insured,” the parents said.
ISMIE’s shortcomings did not end there, according to the lawsuit, as ISMIE also concealed from the doctors the information there was a strong possibility a jury would decide against them and the judgment would “greatly exceed” the coverage available, thus hiding the extent of the doctors’ risk.
ISMIE’s alleged deception created a conflict of interest, as ISMIE worked counter to the interests of the doctors. If the doctors had been aware of this situation, they could have hired independent and objective counsel, who would have protected the doctors against ISMIE, the parents contend.
In addition to the more than $1 million the parents said ISMIE owes them for the trial verdict, they want $10 million in punitive damages and costs of the suit, because ISMIE allegedly breached its fiduciary duty. The parents noted that during the original suit against ISMIE, the judge presiding in the matter at that time refused to grant ISMIE’s motion to dismiss the punitive damages count of the suit, saying plaintiffs had met their burden.
The Hanas are represented by Burke, Wise, Morrissey & Kaveny, of Chicago.