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State appeals court tosses out Will Co. jury verdict against woman whose husband died from blood clot

State Court

By Karen Kidd | Jul 23, 2019

Third district appellate ottawa illinois
Illinois Third District Appellate Courthouse, Ottawa | IvoShandor [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

OTTAWA  — The widow of a Joliet man who died from a blood clot a decade ago will be allowed a new trial for damages against the treatment facility she alleges scheduled an untimely follow-up appointment, an Illinois appeals court has ruled.

In its 14-page judgment handed down July 19, an Illinois Third District Appellate Court three-judge panel reinstated the case of Susan Steed, widow of Glenn Steed Jr., against Rezin Orthopedics and Sports Medicine and physician Stephen Treacy. The appellate court ruled that Susan Steed is entitled to judgment on liability "where evidence overwhelmingly established that orthopedic treatment facility was negligent in failing to schedule follow-up appointment as ordered by treating physician," the judgment said.

The three-judge panel said that the standard for entry of judgment notwithstanding the verdict (n.o.v.) is high.

"However, in this case, the evidence and inferences, when viewed in a light most favorable to Rezin Orthopedics, so overwhelmingly favor Susan that no contrary verdict can stand," the judgment stated. "Accordingly, we reverse and remand with directions to enter judgment in favor of Susan Steed on the issue of liability and to hold a new trial on the issue of damages only."

The judgment reversed a Will County Circuit Court jury's findings against Susan Steed, independent administrator of her husband's estate, in her medical malpractice case.

Third District Appellate Justice Tom M. Lytton wrote the judgment in which justices William E. Holdridge and Vicki Wright concurred.

Glenn Steed, a program manager, was 42 when he suffered a blood clot in his lungs and died March 8, 2009, according to his obituary and the appellate court's judgment.

The three-judge panel said in its judgment that it didn't know whether the Will County jury entered its verdict in favor of defendants "because it found that Rezin Orthopedics did not breach the standard of care or because it found no causal connection between Glenn’s death and the failure to schedule the appointment as instructed." 

"Thus, although we agree that the evidence at trial overwhelmingly established that Rezin Orthopedics breached the standard of care, we must also evaluate proximate cause," the justices said. "Here, the evidence presented at trial showed that if Glenn had returned to the clinic in two weeks, his (condition) would have likely been diagnosed and treated."

Experts testified before the Will County jury that the pulmonary embolism that killed Glenn Steed formed from a clot that originated in his leg, in a cast at the time, and that the condition, known as a deep vein thrombosis, would have been "easily diagnosed and treatable," the judgment said.

Instead of two weeks as ordered by Treacy, Glenn Steed's follow-up visit was scheduled three weeks after his leg had been placed in a cast, according to the judgment.

"The record before us demonstrates that defendant's negligence was a proximate cause of Glenn's death," the justices said.

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