Pretzel & Stouffer

Hospital Not Guilty Verdict Reinstated on Appeal

The Appellate Court of Illinois has reinstated a jury verdict for a hospital foundation represented by Pretzel & Stouffer, finding that the trial court abused its discretion when it vacated that verdict and granted a new trial to the plaintiff.

Scott L. Howie and Sommer R. Luzynczyk of Pretzel & Stouffer represented the hospital foundation in the appeal, first persuading the appellate court to grant leave to appeal, and then convincing it that the jury verdict obtained at trial by Pretzel’s Brian T. Henry should be restored.

The jury trial had ended with a verdict for the hospital foundation, a rejection of the plaintiff’s claim that a doctor and nurse of the foundation had failed to adequately communicate changes in the decedent’s medications to a third-party home-healthcare provider. The plaintiff moved for a new trial, claiming the foundation had not disclosed documents it had subpoenaed from the home-healthcare provider. When the trial court granted her motion, the foundation successfully petitioned the appellate court to accept a discretionary appeal of that ruling.

The appellate court agreed that the trial judge had abused his discretion in granting the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, determining that the plaintiff had not been unfairly prejudiced. It acknowledged the foundation’s use of an open and transparent subpoena process, which was inconsistent with an intent to conceal the documents the provider produced. The court also recognized that the documents were not significant to the plaintiff’s case, and that she was not substantially prejudiced by not receiving them prior to trial. These considerations caused the court to conclude that the trial judge had sanctioned the foundation too harshly by vacating the verdict and ordering a new trial, and that he had abused his discretion in doing so. The appellate court reversed that order and reinstated the verdict in favor of the foundation.

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