NBC Chicago reported earlier this week on a settlement in the high-profile Chicago medical malpractice cases involving the family of former Chicago Sun-Times publisher James Tyree. As we reported last year, Tyree was only fifty three years old when he died last year after a botched dialysis procedure. According to the story, when a catheter was removed during the procedure a deadly air embolism was created. This was confirmed by the medical examiner’s report which also listed pneumonia and stomach cancer as secondary causes of death. While Tyree was sick with the other conditions, the actual death was caused by the improper catheter removal during what was supposed to be a routine procedure.
One local medical malpractice attorney noted shortly after the accident that the case seemed to represent the principle known as “res ipsa loquitur.” Essentially, the legal principle refers to a set of events where negligence is presumed by the very nature of the situation. In Latin the term literally means “the thing speaks for itself.” It indicates circumstance where negligence must have happened, because it does not happen in the absence of malpractice.
From a legal point of view, when res ipsa is applied, the plaintiff in a case is basically given the fact that a duty was owed and breached. To succeed then it must only be shown that the breach caused harm to the plaintiff. In cases such as this, that is obvious, because the patient died because of a traumatic health event immediately after the procedure.
Following the tragic death of the well-known local investor, his family filed an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit. These are lawsuits filed after one has died because of suspected negligence of another. They are unique in that they seek to compensate surviving families for their losses as opposed to the deceased individual.
As often happens in these cases, the involved medical facility decided to settle the matter. In this case, the University of Chicago signed onto the settlement which provides redress for Tyree’s family without the facility legally admitting any fault. According to the terms of the settlement, the hospital will pay a total of $10 million. $5 million of that settlement will be paid to Tyree’s widow and three children immediately. A second payment of $5 million will be paid in installments over the course of five years. However, all of the proceeds from the settlement are expected to be donated to the James C. Tyree Charitable Foundation.
While this story garnered a significant amount of attention, these sorts of deadly errors affect far too many local families. Unfortunately, mistakes are made which cause death and serious injury. Many families find their lives tossed upside down as a result. The consequences are often particularly hard for those who have the primary family breadwinner unable to work. Spouses and children often suffer considerably as a result. Of course that is not even counting the suffering of the individual actually hurt by the malpractice. Wrongful death lawsuits and medical malpractice lawsuits are filed specifically to help all those affected in these situations.
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