Board to Vote on Illinois Med Mal Settlement from Stroger Hospital Errors

A few legal details are different in Chicago medical malpractice cases where a public body is the defendant. In the med mal context, that usually occurs when the hospital where the medical error occurred is a publicly owned facility, like Cook County’s Stroger Hospital. There are often different timelines to file suit and various hoops that must be jumped through before recovery is actual received.

For one thing, any payment via settlement must be approved by the client-defendant. When that client is the public, then the approval must be given by the people’s representatives. In the case of Stroger Hospital, that is the Cook County Board of Commissioners. That is exactly what is set to happen when Commissioners vote on a new proposed settlement which would allow payment of $1.75 million to a former Stroger Hospital patient who had his leg amputated.

Chicago Medical Malpractice
According to the Chicago Sun Times story on the situation, the original lawsuit was filed in 2010. The plaintiff–who is in his 60s–was brought to the Stroger Hospital emergency room in 2007. He was experiencing numbness in his lower right leg; he also had an ulcer. He was eventually referred to the vascular clinic in the facility, because he had reduced blood flow to that portion of his leg. Obviously this is a very delicate matter, as blood flow problems are known to cause serious long-term problems when not handled in a timely manner.

By the time the man was actually seen by specialists, however, the harm had already been done. The new doctors treating the man noted that the leg was infected. The infection was so severe that the only course of conduct was to amputate the leg above the knee.

The man eventually sought out the help of legal professionals who filed suit against the County on his behalf for the substandard care provided at Stroger Hospital. A $1.75 million settlement package was recently negotiated between the parties. However, before becoming official, the settlement will need to be approved via the traditional County Board process. That includes review by the litigation subcommittee, a vote through the Finance Committee, and then a full vote of the entire County Board.

Lessons Learned
This latest medical malpractice case from a public hospital in the Chicago area is a tragic reminder of the substandard care that many residents continue to receive and the severe consequences that result. Unfortunately, some community members remain confused about the process. Many who are harmed by poor care do not come forward to press for accountability, because they are not sure of their rights.

No one should forget that it doesn’t matter if you are using Medicare or Medicaid, and the same basic rules still apply if the facility in question is a public one. It also does not matter if you enter through the emergency room or are arrive at the facility in another way. The same reasonable standards of care must be met in all of these settings. When the medical providers fail to meet that standard and complications develop, then the law allows the individual harmed (or their family) to file suit and seek accountability.

This accountability function often acts as a spur so that changes are made at the facility to prevent future problems. For example, it would not be surprising if this particular lawsuit led to protocol changes and safety updates at Stroger Hospital in order to ensure that no similar problem occurs again.

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