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Block v. Michael Reese Hospital

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 17, 1981.

MOLLY BLOCK, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

MICHAEL REESE HOSPITAL AND MEDICAL CENTER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWIN M. BERMAN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE CAMPBELL DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal from an order of the circuit court of Cook County granting the plaintiff, Molly Block's motion for a directed verdict regarding the liability of the defendant, Michael Reese Hospital (hereinafter called the Hospital). Said plaintiff fell while she was an in-patient at the Hospital. The fall was the basis of a damage suit for negligence against the Hospital. Plaintiff's motion was entered and granted at the close of the evidence, during a jury trial.

The issue presented for review is whether the trial court erred in granting plaintiff's motion for a directed verdict on the issues of the Hospital's negligence and the plaintiff's freedom from contributory negligence.

On May 30, 1977, the plaintiff, who was 87 years of age, was admitted to the Hospital for gastro-intestinal pain. On June 11, she was scheduled for a barium enema and pneumo-colon study, including X rays. Because of the scheduled X rays, she had been on a liquid diet for the preceding 48 hours. On the morning of June 11, the plaintiff did not eat any breakfast, and at about 10:30 a.m. a man came up to her room and took her to the X-ray department. After her tests the plaintiff was taken back in a wheelchair to the floor of the building where her room was located.

The plaintiff testified that the man stopped at the floor nurses' station and took the wheelchair away, leaving her standing unattended at the corner of the nurses' station. She then became dizzy and blanked out, causing her to fall.

An assistant nurse at the Hospital testified that she saw the accident happen. According to her, the plaintiff was not standing at the nurses' station, but was sitting in a chair in the solarium, across the hallway from the nurses' station. The witness saw the plaintiff get up from her chair, take a few steps and then suddenly fall to the floor.

Another nurse, and Hospital employee, testified that it was the rule and regulation of the Hospital to have an escort service not only pick up patients in their room but also to have the escort service take patients from their tests to the nurses' station, and let the service clerk at the nurses' station know that the patient is back, and then put the patient back in her room with a nurse. The escort is supposed to wait with the patient at the nurses' station until the patient is taken to her room for the patient's convenience and safety.

At the close of all the evidence the trial court entered a directed verdict against the Hospital on the issue of liability and submitted only the issue of damages to the jury. The jury returned a verdict of $30,816, from which the Hospital appeals.

The defendant claims the issues of negligence and contributory negligence were for the jury to decide, and the trial court erred in granting plaintiff's motion for a directed verdict on said issues.

• 1 In Pedrick v. Peoria & Eastern R.R. Co. (1967), 37 Ill.2d 494, 229 N.E.2d 504, the court considered the question of whether the evidence presented any factual issues for the jury to decide, and, at page 510, stated:

"In our judgment verdicts ought to be directed * * * only in those cases in which all of the evidence, when viewed in its aspect most favorable to the opponent, so overwhelmingly favors the movant that no contrary verdict based on that evidence could ever stand."

Thus, in passing on the propriety of a directed verdict for a plaintiff, the courts> of review must consider the defendant's evidence in its most favorable light together with all the inferences in its favor which can be legitimately drawn therefrom (see Wilson v. Glen Falls Insurance Co. (1941), 309 Ill. App. 286, 32 N.E.2d 961). However, it is proper to direct a verdict for the plaintiff on the issue of liability at the close of all the evidence when the plaintiff has made a case and there is no evidence contradicting or tending to contradict plaintiff's evidence on that issue (Sughero v. Jewel Tea Co. (1966), 66 Ill. App.2d 353, 214 N.E.2d 512, aff'd (1967), 37 Ill.2d 240, 226 N.E.2d 28). This is so, just as it is required to grant plaintiff's motion notwithstanding the jury's verdict for defendant when "the evidence indicates that defendant was negligent as a matter of law and plaintiff was free from contributory negligence as a matter of law." (Hicks v. Donoho (1979), 79 Ill. App.3d 541, 399 N.E.2d 138.) As stated by the court in Hadden v. Fifer (1949), 339 Ill. App. 287, 291-92, 89 N.E.2d 854, "[t]he question presented by a plaintiff's motion for a directed verdict in an action at law is whether there is any evidence fairly tending to prove a defense to the cause of action * * *."

The plaintiff's amended complaint charges that the Hospital had a duty under the law to exercise reasonable care for the condition of well-being and safety of the plaintiff while in and confined to the Hospital. The duty of care owed by hospitals to their in-patients has been commented upon by the Illinois Supreme Court in Darling v. Charleston Community Memorial Hospital (1965), 33 Ill.2d 326, 332, 211 N.E.2d 253, as follows:

"* * * Present-day hospitals, as their manner of operation plainly demonstrates, do far more than furnish facilities for treatment. They regularly employ on a salary basis a large staff of physicians, nurses and interns, as well as administrative and manual workers, and they charge patients for medical care and treatment, collecting for such services, if necessary, by legal action. Certainly, the person who avails himself of `hospital facilities' expects that the ...


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