Judge Lyons Awards $1.4 Million in Attorney Fees Against Nursing Home after $4.1 million Verdict

Circuit Court Judge Thomas Lyons recently entered a ruling upholding a $4.1 million verdict against Clare Oaks Assisi Healthcare Center.  Judge Lyons also granted Plaintiff’s counsel’s petition for more than $1.3 million in attorney fees, and roughly $147,000 in costs.

The case arose out of the death of Dolores Trendel, an 85 year-old woman, who was transferred to Clare Oaks in February of 2011 for physical therapy after suffering a fractured hip from a fall at home.  At the time of her admission to Clare Oaks, Trendel was taking Coumadin, a prescription blood thinner to prevent blood clotting and a stroke.  Trendel routinely required lab tests to reassess the effectiveness of her Coumadin dosage.  A few weeks into her admission at Clare Oaks, a lab result came back indicating Trendel needed a higher dosage of Coumadin to effectively thin her blood.  The plaintiffs alleged that instead of increasing Trendel’s Coumadin dosage, the staff at Clare Oaks stopped giving Trendel the medication altogether.  There was testimony that an order discontinuing the Coumadin was entered by a nurse who communicated with Dr. Percival Bigol at the time. But Dr. Bigol contended that the nurse was mistaken, and the order did not reflect his actual instructions.  Two weeks after the medication had allegedly been discontinued, Trendel suffered a stroke.  Trendel’s family alleged that after the stroke, Trendel became partially paralyzed, and her quality of life continuously declined until she died four years later, at the age of 89.  The jury found that the stroke contributed to cause her death, awarding over $4.1 million in damages.

Clare Oaks filed post-trial motions asking the court to overturn the verdict, contending that medical witnesses’ testimony unfairly speculated about conduct by Clare Oaks unrelated to the case.  Moreover, Clare Oaks claimed, Judge Flannery wrongfully denied its motion to continue the trial on the grounds that its expert witness was too sick to testify, leaving it without an expert.  Judge Lyons denied the motions.

The award of $1.3 million in attorneys’ fees, one-third of the verdict value, is significant, raising an issue of how attorneys’ fees pursuant to the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act should properly be calculated.  At this time, it is unknown if the defendant will appeal Judge Lyons’ rulings.

For more information, please contact Anne.Nelson@arandpartners.com.