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Beals v. Huffman

OPINION FILED JULY 22, 1986.

CLIFFORD C. BEALS ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

STANLEY R. HUFFMAN ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Coles County; the Hon. William J. Sunderman, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiffs brought an action in the circuit court of Coles County alleging that defendants committed medical malpractice. The court entered summary judgment in favor of defendants. Plaintiffs appeal. The facts follow.

On December 23, 1983, plaintiffs Clifford Beals (Beals) and his wife, Goldie Beals, filed a four-count complaint in the circuit court of Coles County against defendants, Dr. Stanley Huffman and Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System, Inc., also known as Area E-7 Hospital Association (hospital). Count I alleged that Dr. Huffman performed a surgical operation on Beals' esophagus in a negligent and unskillful manner causing injury to Beals. Count I specifically alleged, among other things, that Dr. Huffman carelessly and negligently punctured Beals' stomach wall during the course of the operation causing the contents of Beals' stomach to spill out into his body cavity. Count II alleged that the hospital, by and through the acts of its authorized agents and employees, committed negligent and unskillful acts in the treatment of Beals causing injury to him. The specific acts of negligence alleged to have been committed by the hospital were identical to the specific acts of negligence alleged to have been committed by Dr. Huffman. Count III incorporated the allegations of count I and alleged further that Dr. Huffman's negligence caused Goldie Beals to suffer the loss of society of her husband. Count IV incorporated the allegations of count II and alleged further that the hospital's negligence caused Goldie Beals to suffer the loss of society of her husband.

During the following months, defendants filed answers to the complaint. Several matters pertaining to discovery were also filed.

On June 18, 1984, Dr. Huffman filed a motion for summary judgment on counts I and III of the complaint. The affidavit of Dr. Huffman was attached to the motion. The affidavit stated in full as follows:

"I, STANLEY R. HUFFMAN, M.D., being first duly sworn, state under oath and depose that I am a duly licensed and actively practicing medical practitioner in the state of Illinois; that I am familiar on a first hand basis with the standards for physicians practicing in the Coles County area in December, 1981, dealing with complaints of the type described for Plaintiff, CLIFFORD C. BEALS, in the Complaint on file herein; that at all times in 1981 and 1982 at the time of professional contacts by me with CLIFFORD C. BEALS that I complied with said standard and that no act or omission on my part caused or contributed to cause any condition of ill being in the body of CLIFFORD C. BEALS."

On July 6, 1984, the hospital filed a motion for summary judgment on counts II and IV of the complaint.

On October 22, 1984, the court entered an order granting each defendant's motion for summary judgment.

Also on October 22, 1984, Dr. Huffman filed his own sworn statement. After describing his academic and professional background, he made the following statements concerning his treatment of Beals.

Dr. Huffman stated that he first treated Beals on December 29, 1981, after Beals had been referred to him by his family physician. Beals had been experiencing difficulties in swallowing. On December 30, 1981, Dr. Huffman performed an upper-gastrointestinal endoscopic examination on Beals and determined that a stricture existed in Beals' esophagus. He diagnosed Beals' condition as reflexes esophagitis and columnar line esophagitis. He told Beals that the best treatment would be to open the stricture at the end of the esophagus. Dr. Huffman explained to Beals and his wife that an esophageal dilation involved the passage of progressively larger dilators through the esophagus. He informed Beals and his wife that the risks involved in an esophageal dilation included perforation, infection, and adverse reaction to drugs involved.

On January 2, 1982, Dr. Huffman performed an esophageal dilation on Beals. He passed progressively larger dilators (rubber tubes) through Beals' esophagus. Beals was conscious and alert during the entire procedure. After the completion of the procedure, Beals had a barium swallow. The barium swallow revealed that Beals had sustained a perforation at the far end of the esophagus during the esophageal dilation. Dr. Neuberger performed surgery to repair the perforation.

Dr. Huffman continued his treatment of Beals through January 12, 1982.

Dr. Huffman stated that he was familiar with the standards of care required of physicians performing esophageal dilations in Coles County and that he did not deviate from those standards of care. He denied each of the specific allegations of negligence contained in the complaint. He concluded the statement by stating that he provided proper care and treatment to Beals.

On October 25, 1984, plaintiffs filed a motion to vacate the order entering summary judgment in favor of defendants and a motion to reconsider that order. Plaintiffs argued that Dr. Huffman's affidavit consisted only of legal conclusions insufficient to entitle defendants to summary judgment. The court entered an order granting plaintiffs' motions and vacating its order of October 22, 1984.

On November 2, 1984, a hearing was held. No record of that hearing was made.

On January 23, 1985, Dr. Huffman filed a renewed motion for summary judgment on counts I and III of the complaint. The sworn statement described earlier and plaintiffs' answer to interrogatory No. 24 were attached to the motion. Plaintiffs' answer to interrogatory No. 24 stated that plaintiffs knew of no medical professionals holding opinions critical of Dr. Huffman's treatment of Beals.

On the same date the hospital filed a renewed motion for summary judgment on counts II and IV of the complaint. The same documents attached to Dr. Huffman's motion were attached to the hospital's motion.

Beals filed his own affidavit in opposition to Dr. Huffman's motion for summary judgment stating that the facts alleged in the complaint were true. Plaintiffs also filed their own sworn statement describing Beals' treatment and their injuries.

On February 7, 1985, plaintiffs filed a notice of expert witness indicating that they had retained Dr. Ralph Gieselman as an expert witness. In opposition to defendants' motions for summary judgment, plaintiffs filed the affidavit of Dr. Gieselman. That affidavit stated in full as follows:

"I, [Ralph V. Gieselman, M.D.], being first duly sworn upon oath depose and state as follows:

1. That I am a physician licensed to practice medicine in the State of Missouri and I am Board Certified in Internal ...


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