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Mayer v. Baisier





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Joseph P. Koval, Judge, presiding.


As administrator of the estate of Emil J. Mayer, Dorothy B. Mayer brought this wrongful death action in the circuit court of Sangamon County against defendants, Walter Baisier, Raymond Pearson, and St. John's Hospital (hospital), alleging medical malpractice. During a trial before a jury, defendant Pearson was dismissed following his testimony on motion by the plaintiff. At the close of plaintiff's case in chief, the remaining two defendants moved for directed verdicts. After hearing arguments on the motions, the trial court directed verdicts in favor of defendant Baisier and defendant hospital. Plaintiff now appeals from the judgment of the circuit court directing a verdict in favor of defendant Baisier, contending that she established a prima facie case of medical malpractice against Baisier and, therefore, the trial court's judgment should be reversed. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

On October 14, 1977, Emil J. Mayer, the decedent, was admitted to St. John's Hospital in Springfield in order to undergo a "total left hip replacement" operation. On October 18, 1977, Walter Baisier, an orthopedic surgeon, performed the hip-replacement operation on decedent. On December 31, 1977, approximately 10 weeks after his surgery, decedent died as a result of massive sepsis or an overwhelming infection.

Thereafter, on December 31, 1979, plaintiff, Dorothy Mayer, as administrator of the decedent's estate, brought a wrongful death action against decedent's internist, Raymond Pearson, his orthopedic surgeon, Walter Baisier, and the hospital for alleged medical malpractice. Count I of plaintiff's three-count complaint alleged that defendant Baisier was negligent in "one or more of the following respects":

"(b) Allowed the decedent to receive the drug "coumadin" an anticoagulant daily from October 18, 1977 through October 23, 1977, so that a massive hemorrhage into the operative site was produced; a tremendous hemotoma [sic] thereupon developed in the operative site which eventually became infected;

(c) Permitted the removal of a hemovac on the basis of a previously typed order sent to the hospital before the patient's operation, when had the hemovac been left in place it could of [sic] removed some of the tremendous amount of blood from the hemorrhage into the operative site;

* * *

(e) Essentially abandoned the decedent after the operation; from the date of surgery, October 18, 1977, he did not see the decedent until November 18, 1977; * * * and generally through abandoning the patient failed to provide proper and adequate medical care and treatment to him."

A jury trial commenced on October 2, 1985. During trial, plaintiff introduced the testimony of six members of the decedent's family and three physicians. Two of the physicians who testified were defendant Pearson, decedent's first internist, and Dr. Victor Lary, the pathologist who performed the decedent's autopsy. Plaintiff also introduced the deposition testimony of Dr. Theodore Massell, who testified as an expert in the area of general surgery.

Plaintiff called Dr. Pearson to testify as an adverse witness. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 2-1102.) Pearson testified that the decedent first came to his office in June or July of 1977, suffering from pain in his hip. After several visits, decedent informed Pearson that he was going to be hospitalized in St. John's Hospital during which time Dr. Walter Baisier would perform a total hip replacement. Decedent asked Pearson to "handle his internal medical care" during his hospitalization.

Pearson testified that he saw the decedent almost daily following the October 18, 1977, surgery, until he was discharged from the case on October 25, 1977. Three days after the operation, Pearson learned from the hospital chart that decedent was experiencing diarrhea. Pearson prescribed medication for the diarrhea and performed several stool cultures. Then on the morning of October 25, 1977, Pearson observed that decedent's physical condition was worsening. He appeared weak, was unable to eat and was diaphoretic, i.e., perspiring. Further, the diarrhea had become more severe, his hemoglobin was falling, and his white blood count was high, indicating an infection. Pearson was concerned with these findings and entertained several possibilities of internal medical problems. Following his examination of decedent that day, Pearson learned the plaintiff had discharged him from the case and that he was being replaced by another internist. That was the last time Pearson saw the decedent.

During the time Pearson was treating decedent, he did not see or speak with Dr. Baisier personally regarding decedent's condition. Pearson's treatment, as the internist, only included a visual check of the bandaged operative site. From the standpoint of an internist, he believed that decedent's "orthopedic condition" was satisfactory during the time he was seeing the patient.

Following his testimony, Pearson was dismissed as a defendant in the cause, on plaintiff's motion.

Dr. Victor Lary, a pathologist, was also called to testify by the plaintiff. Dr. Lary testified that on December 31, 1977, he performed an autopsy on the decedent. When examining the operative site of the hip replacement he observed infected tissue. He could also see that two operations had been performed subsequent to the hip replacement, in an effort to drain or decompress the infection. Following an examination of decedent's body and a review of his hospital records, he concluded that decedent died of an overwhelming ...

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