A state appeals panel has upheld a jury’s finding in favor of Loyola University Medical Center in a lawsuit brought by the parents of a 2-year-old girl who died following a surgery to replace her pacemaker.
Mohammed and Lisa Eid brought the case against the hospital in 2012, alleging medical negligence and reckless infliction of emotional distress. In their appeal, the Eids had argued the jury’s finding was against the manifest weight of the evidence, that the court permitted Loyola to withhold documents about the death generated for the hospital’s peer review committee and that the court permitted jury instructions and closing remarks that could have confused the jury.
The Eids’ daughter, Miranda, was born with a congenital heart defect that required a pacemaker. In 2012, at the age of two, she underwent surgery to replace the pacemaker implanted shortly after her birth. The surgery was successful, but several hours later nurses in the pediatric intensive care unit reported that Miranda had become fussy and uncomfortable. Her condition quickly worsened, and she died a few hours later, despite the efforts of hospital staff to save her.
Illinois First District Appellate Court
Key to the Eids’ medical negligence claim was a test of Miranda’s blood gas levels just over an hour before her death. The sample was tested three times, and each time the levels were abnormally low. The Eids’ expert witness testified at trial that this was an indication of internal bleeding that should have triggered an exploratory surgery. But a jury found that because a chest X-ray, ultrasound and echocardiogram were all performed and showed no evidence of fluid or blood around the heart, Loyola was not negligent in ruling out an internal bleed.
The charge of infliction of emotional distress was related to what happened to Miranda’s body after her death. According to court documents, some tubes could not be removed prior to an autopsy. Because the nursing staff was unsure whether an autopsy would be performed, those tubes were left in the body when it was taken to the morgue. Somehow, the tubes allegedly remained even when the body was released to a funeral home.
At the funeral home, Lisa Eid and others undertook to bathe Miranda’s body in a ritual washing, and Eid asserted she was traumatized to see the tubes still in her daughter’s body, the lawsuit said. When the ritual washers removed some of the tubes the body bled, causing the mother further distress.
For Loyola to be liable for reckless infliction of emotional distress, the Eids had to prove the hospital’s conduct was “extreme and outrageous,” that staff knew there was a high probability its actions would cause severe emotional distress and that distress occurred.
A three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court in Chicago agreed that the failure to remove the tubes was due to miscommunication and said it was not “clearly evident” that the failure constituted extreme or outrageous conduct. The court also found there was no evidence the nurses knew Lisa Eid would see the tubes being removed from Miranda’s body, and could not have known that their actions would cause severe emotional distress.
The appeals court also agreed with the lower court that 13 pages of documents created by the hospital’s internal investigator for the benefit of a peer review committee are privileged under the Medical Studies Act.
And the court found no merit to the Eids’ claims that the jury was confused by instructions given to help define the term “reckless infliction of emotional distress,” nor that the jury was likely prejudiced by a vague remark in Loyola’s closing argument implying there was some defense for leaving the tubes in the body. The Eids submitted additional jury instructions and their counsel addressed the remark in closing statements, the court wrote, providing the jury with enough clarification to settle the question.
The Feb. 24 opinion was authored by Justice Bertina Lampkin. Justices Robert Gordon and Jesse Reyes concurred in the decision.
According to Cook County court records, the Eids were represented in the action by attorney Keith Davidson, of Chicago.
Loyola was defended by the firm of Swanson Martin & Bell LLP, of Chicago.