Pretzel & Stouffer

Summary Judgement Won and Upheld Due to Lack of Medical Causation

The Appellate Court of Illinois has affirmed a summary judgment for several doctors and professional corporations finding that the trial court properly found no genuine issue of material fact as to whether any of the defendants proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury. Robert Marc Chemers and Scott L. Howie of Pretzel & Stouffer prepared and defended the appellate brief on behalf of all but one of the defendants. Summary judgment had been obtained for one of the doctors just before trial by Pretzel & Stouffer’s John V. Smith II and Matthew A. Reddy.

The plaintiff alleged that a series of doctors had been negligent in failing to diagnose or properly treat a vascular condition on his leg, preventing him from obtaining appropriate treatment until it was too late to save his leg from amputation. As the case went to trial, the defendants moved for summary judgment, relying on the disclosed opinion testimony of the plaintiff’s expert that even after the latest treatment by any of the defendants, the plaintiff had been examined by a vascular surgeon who correctly identified his problem—and who still could have operated to save his leg. The trial judge agreed that this was uncontroverted evidence that the defendants’ alleged errors, even if proven, had not prevented the plaintiff from obtaining a timely diagnosis and effective treatment, meaning that their alleged negligence could not have been the proximate cause of the need to amputate his leg. The appellate court agreed with this analysis, endorsing the argument that in the medical context, an allegedly negligent failure to diagnose a condition is not the cause of subsequent injury if the alleged failure does not prevent the patient from being diagnosed at a time the injury can still be avoided or prevented.

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