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02/02/87 George Georgacopoulos, v. the University of Chicago

February 2, 1987

GEORGE GEORGACOPOULOS, INDI

v.

AND AS GUARDIAN OF THE ESTATE OF RINA GEORGACOPOULOS, A DISABLED PERSON, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,

v.

THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO HOSPITALS AND CLINICS ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIRST DIVISION

504 N.E.2d 830, 152 Ill. App. 3d 596, 105 Ill. Dec. 545 1987.IL.103

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Brian L. Crowe, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE BUCKLEY delivered the opinion of the court. CAMPBELL and O'CONNOR, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE BUCKLEY

The defendants appeal the judgment entered against them after a jury trial in a medical malpractice suit. The suit alleged that the defendants negligently positioned and monitored a catheter that was inserted into the superior vena cava. Allegedly the catheter developed a blood clot which caused a cardiac arrest with extensive brain damage resulting. On appeal, we are asked to decide whether: (1) the trial court erroneously admitted a "Day in the Life" videotape, which inflamed the jury's passions; (2) the trial court erroneously excluded admissions of plaintiff's counsel; (3) the trial court erroneously excluded defendants' questions designed to rehabilitate its expert witness; (4) plaintiff violated Supreme Court Rule 220 (103 Ill. 2d R. 220) when his expert witness expressed opinions that exceeded testimony given at deposition; (5) the jury's verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence and was excessive.

In September 1982, Rina Georgacopoulos (Rina) entered the University of Chicago Hospital and Clinic for treatment of stomach cancer. During the first days of her stay in the hospital, Rina's doctors conducted tests to determine if the cancer had spread to other parts of her body. These tests indicated that the cancer was confined to her stomach, so they decided to remove it. To prepare Rina for surgery, her doctors decided to fortify her physical condition by providing nourishment through a catheter.

This type of catheter is positioned in the superior vena cava, and chemical nutrients are infused through the tube. After the catheter is placed in the patient, an X ray is taken to confirm that it is properly positioned. A properly positioned catheter should lie straight in the vein with the tip pointing down.

On September 23, 1982, a catheter was placed in Rina's superior vena cava. At 4 p.m. on that day, an X ray was taken. The X ray showed two significant problems with the placement of the catheter. First, the X ray showed that the tip of the catheter was coiled back on itself. Second, the X ray indicated a mass that was interpreted to be bleeding inside the chest.

A follow-up X ray was taken later that evening which showed the same internal problems found earlier, and in addition, it showed an abnormal accumulation of fluid inside the membrane that covers the lungs. Despite these abnormal findings, no corrective action was taken. At 10:40 p.m. on September 25, 1982, Rina stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest. She was resuscitated, but not before she suffered permanent brain damage because of lack of oxygen.

Rina sustained extensive physical and mental damage. After months of therapy she still can only speak in short phrases slightly above a whisper. She has difficulty with fine motor skills, such as buttoning a button or brushing her teeth. She walks stiffly and very tentatively. She cannot perform any household chores and requires continuous care and attention. The majority of her day is spent watching television.

George Georgacopoulos, the plaintiff, brought suit on behalf of his disabled wife for pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, lost earnings, and her expenses. He brought suit on his own behalf for the loss of his wife's society, companionship, and conjugal relationship and the loss of her services. The jury awarded $750,000 to George Georgacopoulos and awarded Rina Georgacopoulos $3,510,000. The defendants appeal the verdict for Rina Georgacopoulos. I

The defendants initially argue that the court erroneously admitted into evidence a "Day in the Life" videotape, which depicted Rina's activities after her injuries. They argue that this videotape inflamed the jury, especially because it showed a painful physical therapy session. "Day in the Life" videotapes, similar to the tape admitted in the present case, have been admitted if their probative value is not outweighed by their inflammatory effect. (Barenbrugge v. Rich (1986), 141 Ill. App. 3d 1046, 1056, 490 N.E.2d 1368, 1375.) No assertion is made here that the evidence was not an accurate portrayal of Rina's condition and circumstances; its probative value is not seriously questioned. The insistence that such evidence is merely cumulative is not persuasive. Sparling v. Peabody Coal Co. (1974), 59 Ill. 2d 491, 500-01, 322 N.E.2d 5, 10-11.

Defendants' reliance on Thomas v. C.G. Tate Construction Co. (D.S.C. 1979), 465 F. Supp. 566, is simply misplaced. The plaintiff in Thomas suffered extensive burns. The entire videotape in that case showed the plaintiff undergoing a painful therapy session. The court described the tape as follows:"[t]he tape definitely incites extreme sympathy for the plaintiff and would inflame the average person." ...


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