What Happened in the Case
On June 15, 2014, the plaintiff visited an urgent care center complaining of foot pain, which had lasted about two days. The plaintiff, then a 25-year-old man, had a history of ulcerative colitis and pulmonary embolism - conditions that involve blood clots or a higher risk of clotting issues.
Noting the possibility of a venous clot in the patient’s leg, the urgent care center sent the plaintiff to the emergency department at Central DuPage Hospital for evaluation. Upon entering the emergency department, the patient saw Dr. Jeffery Bohmer. The patient told the ER doctor that the pain was getting worse.
After a venous doppler, Dr. Bohmer discharged the plaintiff with “limb pain,” but no diagnosis. The plaintiff received instructions to follow up with his primary care physician in a day or two.
The plaintiff’s foot pain continued to get worse, so the next day, he visited his primary care physician. The primary care doctor ordered an X-ray, which showed no bone damage. The primary care doctor determined the plaintiff had “musculoskeletal pain. A call to the primary care office a few days later never reached the physician.
On June 19, the plaintiff returned to his primary care doctor, now on crutches and with a red, painful foot that couldn’t bear his weight. This time, his primary care doctor diagnosed cellulitis and scheduled a June 20 follow-up with an orthopedic surgeon. On June 20, the orthopedic surgeon sent the plaintiff back to the hospital around noon. That evening, a vascular surgeon performed several tests; the next day, surgery revealed several embolized clots and arterial occlusions.
The plaintiff’s foot could not be saved and had to be removed. Months of rehabilitative treatment followed; the plaintiff’s pain, infections, and need for rehabilitative treatment continue now, nearly a decade later.
The Jury’s Verdict
Arterial occlusions - clots in the arteries - are uncommon in 25-year-old patients. Yet for the plaintiff, several risk factors indicated he was at a higher risk for a clot. These include his past history of pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lung, and ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory disease that can increase the risk of blood clots.
Losing his foot at age 25 also meant that the plaintiff lost many potential years of engaging in his favorite activities, including hiking and walking his dogs. The plaintiff now faces ongoing medical challenges and a need to replace his prosthetic approximately every two years - a cost he would not have incurred if doctors had diagnosed him properly.
Recognizing these facts, on September 29, 2023, a Cook County jury returned a total verdict of $32,747,000. This figure includes:
- $3 million for past loss of a normal life,
- $4 million for past pain and suffering,
- $3.6 million for past emotional distress
- $6.5 million for future loss of a normal life,
- $6.5 million for future pain and suffering,
- $3 million for future emotional distress,
- $5 million for disfigurement,
- $972,000 for past medical expenses, and
- $175,000 for future medical expenses.
Illinois’ lack of caps on medical malpractice damages is reflected in the amounts awarded.
Takeaways for Attorneys
Because Illinois does not cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims, attorneys bringing or defending against medical malpractice claims in the state typically spend more time discussing and addressing non-economic damages arguments. Yet even in states with damages caps, these arguments can have significant effects on a jury’s understanding of a case and its associated losses.
Here, for example, plaintiffs’ attorneys focused on the impact the plaintiff suffered from losing a foot at age 25 - after taking several steps over the course of five days to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. The plaintiff’s losses extended not only to what he has already suffered but also to how the permanent loss of his foot will shape the rest of his life.
In this case, the plaintiff’s family also played a key role in the narrative. The plaintiff’s mother accompanied him to at least one doctor’s appointment prior to the amputation and made a phone call to his primary care physician. The family’s presence in the story allowed the plaintiff’s attorneys to emphasize to the jury that the plaintiff’s suffering, while centered on him, was not confined to him. The entire family felt the impact of the plaintiff’s condition. Telling that story allowed the plaintiff’s attorneys to provide additional perspective on the true scope of the plaintiff’s past and future losses.
The plaintiff is represented by David Rashid, Patrick A. Salvi II and Jennifer M. Cascio of Salvi Schostok & Pritchard PC.