The opinion of the court was delivered by: Foreman, Chief Judge:
This matter is before the Court pursuant to a non-jury trial on
the issue of whether defendant Jewish Hospital should be estopped
from raising the statute of limitations as a defense. In an Order
dated June 3, 1983, the Court held that plaintiff's case against
the hospital was barred by the Illinois Statute of Limitations.
564 F. Supp. 1459. However, the Court declined to dismiss
plaintiff's case because he alleged sufficient facts to invoke
the doctrine of equitable estoppel.
For purposes of this limited hearing, the Court accepted as
true plaintiff's allegations of medical malpractice. Although
plaintiff has alleged numerous theories of negligence in his
complaint, it appears now that plaintiff is relying primarily, if
not solely, on the theory that there was unwarranted delay from
the time plaintiff began to experience neurological distress to
actual medical treatment. Specifically, agents of Jewish Hospital
were allegedly negligent in failing to notify a doctor that
plaintiff was losing sensation in his legs. Plaintiff alleges
that due to this negligence over four hours elapsed from the time
plaintiff began to suffer a deficit to the time his doctor was
notified. Plaintiff alleges if it was not for this delay,
plaintiff would not be paralyzed.
The narrow issue before the Court is whether plaintiff
reasonably relied on defendant's conduct or representations in
forebearing suit. Bomba v. W.L. Belvidere, Inc., 579 F.2d 1067,
1971 (7th Cir. 1978). On July 19 and 20, 1983, the Court heard
evidence and oral argument, and the Court now reaches the
following findings of fact and conclusions of law.
2. Plaintiff's multiple injuries included an unstable fracture
in his lower back in the L2-L3 region. When plaintiff was
admitted to Jewish Hospital on June 8, 1978, he could move his
legs, however, he did experience a tingling sensation. Dr.
Lander, who was in charge of plaintiff's case, advised
plaintiff's parents that paralysis could result from plaintiff's
3. In the early morning hours of June 10, 1978, plaintiff began
to experience a neurological deficit, and he began to lose
sensation in his legs and feel increased numbness. At
approximately 4:00 o'clock a.m., he complained to Nurse Diane
Brennan. Barbara Nutty, plaintiff's mother, became aware of the
change in her son's condition between 4:00 and 5:00 o'clock a.m.,
and she also notified Nurse Brennan. Nurse Brennan told Mrs.
Nutty that Alan's doctors were aware of his condition and on the
4. Nurse Brennan did talk by phone to Dr. Meltzer, a resident
at Jewish Hospital. However, Nurse Brennan did not tell the
doctor about plaintiff's complaints of paralysis. She attributed
plaintiff's complaints to a hysterical reaction produced when she
suctioned his lungs to help him breathe.
5. At approximately 5:00 o'clock a.m., Mrs. Nutty called her
husband, Frank Nutty. He arrived at the hospital at approximately
5:30 o'clock a.m., and after he saw his son, he asked Nurse
Brennan what was going on. He was assured that doctors were on
6. Mr. and Mrs. Nutty interpreted the assurances they received
from Nurse Brennan to mean plaintiff's deteriorating neurological
status was being dealt with, and that doctors who could stop and
reverse the deterioration were aware of the situation and were on
the way. Specifically, Mr. and Mrs. Nutty thought Dr. Lander was
notified at least by 5:30 o'clock a.m. In fact, Mr. and Mrs.
Nutty were misled because Dr. Lander was not called until 8:15
7. At about 7:00 o'clock a.m., Dr. Kathleen James, an intern
employed by Jewish Hospital, saw plaintiff while making her
rounds. She noticed a definite deterioration in plaintiff's
neurological status. She did not talk to plaintiff or his parents
directly about his condition. Further, at no time did Dr. James
tell plaintiff or his parents about the delay.
8. Dr. Lander arrived at about 9:00 o'clock a.m. He told Mr.
Nutty that they would operate immediately, but he later said
surgery would have to wait until Dr. Hawkins, a neurosurgeon,
9. At 1:45 o'clock p.m., surgery was performed on plaintiff to
relieve the pressure on his spinal cord. After the surgery, Mr.
Nutty asked Dr. Tatkow whether the delay had any effect on his
son's condition. ...