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Graham v. St. Luke's Hosp.

FEBRUARY 4, 1964.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN GUTKNECHT, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.


This is an appeal from a judgment on a verdict directed for the defendants, St. Luke's Hospital and Dr. Eugene A. Edwards, at the close of plaintiff's case and entered in the Circuit Court of Cook County on May 4, 1962. The complaint alleged negligence against the defendants arising out of a hypodermic injection given by their alleged agent nurse on June 8, 1952, while the plaintiff, Gladys Graham, was recuperating from a hysterectomy operation in St. Luke's Hospital.

Plaintiff-appellant alleges several errors:

(1) that a verdict was improperly directed because questions of fact demanding a jury decision were raised; (2) that plaintiff introduced sufficient evidence of the negligence of the defendants, with consequent damages to plaintiff to make out a prima facie case; (3) the court erred in refusing to allow plaintiff to phrase her hypothetical question in a manner favorable to her interpretation of the facts; (4) the court erred in refusing to allow plaintiff to amend her complaint against the defendant-doctor.

The law to be applied in determining whether a verdict was properly directed is familiar and uncontested. On motion to direct a verdict, the trial court should overrule the motion if, upon an examination of the record there is any evidence which fairly tends to prove the allegations of the plaintiff's complaint. When the evidence is considered in its aspect most favorable to the plaintiff there is a total failure to prove any necessary element of her case, the motion for a directed verdict should be sustained. The evidence may not be weighed, and all contradictory evidence or explanatory circumstances must be rejected. Lindroth v. Walgreen Co., 407 Ill. 121, 94 N.E.2d 847 (1950); Weinstein v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 389 Ill. 571, 60 N.E.2d 207 (1945); Hogmire v. Voita (abst), 319 Ill. App. 644, 49 N.E.2d 811 (1943).

In her complaint the plaintiff alleged that the defendants through their duly authorized servant, a certain student nurse, were careless and negligent in one or more of the following ways: (a) Carelessly and negligently and improperly caused an injection of a hypodermic needle in the left hip of the plaintiff while she was a patient at the hospital; (b) Carelessly and negligently and improperly used or employed an incompetent servant or student nurse to inject a hypodermic needle in the left hip of plaintiff; (c) Carelessly, negligently and improperly failed to properly supervise the said injection of hypodermic needle in the plaintiff; (d) Carelessly, negligently and improperly failed to maintain good and adequate hygienic conditions and equipment in said hospital; (e) Carelessly and negligently failed to exercise that degree of care required by good medical practice; and (f) Otherwise, carelessly and negligently conducted their hospital subsequent to the aforementioned surgical operation, so as to cause irreparable damage to the plaintiff.

The plaintiff's story is a simple one. She was admitted to St. Luke's Hospital on the 27th of May, 1952. She was operated on for a hysterectomy on the 29th of May by the defendant, Dr. Edwards. The operation was very successful and she was recuperating satisfactorily until June 8, 1952, when she alleges the following events occurred. At about 11 p.m. a nurse entered, lifted her pajama top and hurriedly injected a hypodermic needle in her back. She screamed and was attended by interns and two nurses. She testified she was in severe pain for the remainder of the night. On the following day she stated that she was examined by Dr. Edwards, that he alluded to her "mishap" and that hot packs were prescribed.

Following her release from the hospital the plaintiff entered a Mrs. Porterfield's nursing home for convalescence. She testified that the hot pack treatments were continued and that while at Mrs. Porterfield's she was visited by Dr. Reaney on three occasions.

Plaintiff testified that while she was in the hospital the site of the alleged injection became ridgelike in an area larger than her hand. Through the years, plaintiff has suffered severe pain and physical deformity. Her left leg has turned in so that she required special shoes and braces. She has been to many doctors throughout the United States and Canada. On one occasion a nerve block was performed and she has undergone several other operations to remedy the pain and deformity.

Her expert witness, Dr. Speigel, a neurologist, testified that he had examined the plaintiff in 1957, had found tenderness in the sciatic region and had diagnosed her illness as causalgia. He defined causalgia as a burning pain in the area of distribution of a nerve, which may or may not have been injured. He testified that causalgia first was diagnosed during the Civil War, that it is rare and that when seen the patient is usually a tense emotional person. While Dr. Speigel was testifying, the plaintiff tendered to him a hypothetical question for the purpose of establishing that a hypodermic needle injected into the sciatic notch, under plaintiff's theory of the facts, could or might have caused the infirmities from which the plaintiff suffered. Dr. Speigel did not answer this question due to the insistence of opposing counsels that more facts be added and the impossibility of answering the question after those facts were present. Dr. Speigel was able to testify in regards to safe or unsafe areas of injection in the lower back. He testified that it is necessary to avoid the sciatic notch and the area immediately below it and that the upper outer quadrant was the safest. The plaintiff herself was unable to locate the exact point of the injection, but merely designated the lower back-buttocks region as the area.

In all, the plaintiff presented five persons to testify. The plaintiff recounted her version of the story. Dr. Edwards, an adverse witness, for the most part denied any knowledge of the injection or treatment for a back ailment thereafter. Mrs. Porterfield testified, contradicting parts of both the plaintiff's testimony and Dr. Edward's testimony. Dr. Speigel testified to substantially what has been above related. Dr. Barth, an industrial surgeon, testified that he had referred the plaintiff to Dr. Edwards for a hysterectomy. Although plaintiff sought to have Dr. Barth testify on injection procedure, he was prevented from testifying as a proper foundation had not been established.

The plaintiff sought to introduce thirteen exhibits. Some were hospital records, charts, receipts, insurance company forms, a hypodermic needle and life tables. The most important exhibit was exhibit three, an insurance claim signed by Dr. Edwards, alluding to pain "at the site of the injection" and "left buttock to left foot." This exhibit was rejected as hearsay against the hospital and not admitted against the doctor because the plaintiff did not establish any grounds for it after the doctor refused to admit it. Without discussing each of the rejected exhibits, a reading of the record discloses that those which were rejected were properly rejected for failure to establish a proper foundation or failure to show relevancy of the exhibit to the proposition sought to be proved.

The defendants throughout the proceeding have taken the position that no injection was given to the plaintiff in the lower back at 11 p.m. on June 8. The hospital records are ambiguous concerning the injection alleged by the plaintiff. The plaintiff did not produce testimony or take the depositions of the nurses or interns who she alleges were present the evening of the occurrence. The defendants dismiss any allusion to "pain at the site ...

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