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06/17/87 Augustine Edelin, v. Westlake Community

June 17, 1987





510 N.E.2d 958, 157 Ill. App. 3d 857, 109 Ill. Dec. 890 1987.IL.832

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James S. Quinlan, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE McNAMARA delivered the opinion of the court. RIZZI and FREEMAN, JJ., concur.


Plaintiff Augustine Edelin sought damages in two counts from defendant Westlake Community Hospital for injuries allegedly sustained when she slipped and fell in the hospital lobby after being discharged as a patient from the hospital. After the jury failed to reach a verdict on count II, the trial court entered a directed verdict for defendant and then entered judgment on the verdict. Plaintiff appeals from that judgment, contending that, as to count II, she presented sufficient evidence to withstand a motion for a directed verdict.

Count I of the complaint alleged premises liability. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of defendant as to count I at the close of all the evidence, and plaintiff does not appeal from that judgment. Count II alleged negligence: that defendant breached the standard of accepted care in the manner of discharging plaintiff and that defendant's acts or omissions proximately caused plaintiff's fall and injuries.

Prior to trial, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 220 (107 Ill. 2d R. 220), defendant served plaintiff interrogatories regarding any experts whom plaintiff might call. Plaintiff did not respond to the interrogatories. When the trial began, plaintiff stated that she had no expert witnesses.

At trial, plaintiff testified that on June 4, 1981, she was discharged from Westlake following a hemorrhoidectomy, which had been performed nine days earlier. That morning, plaintiff had taken pain medication prescribed by Dr. Kelly. Plaintiff received no information regarding the discharge procedures.

From her room, plaintiff signaled the nurse that she was dressed and ready to leave. The nurse told her to come to the nurse's station, which plaintiff did, carrying her bags. Plaintiff testified that she inched her way toward the nurse's station, slipping and sliding due to her pain. Her difficulty would be obvious to anyone observing her, as it took approximately 20 minutes to get down the hallway. The attending nurse then told plaintiff that she should just leave.

In the elevator, plaintiff felt sweaty, dizzy and nauseous. As she walked toward the hospital entrance, plaintiff slipped and fell. Plaintiff testified that the floor was slick and a carpet buckled where it was taped down, but she was not sure what caused her to fall. She was subsequently admitted to a different hospital for alleged injuries to her back and legs.

Plaintiff then tendered Dr. John Kelly, her treating physician, as her intended expert on standard of care questions. Defendant objected because of plaintiff's failure to identify Dr. Kelly as an expert pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 220. The court ruled that Dr. Kelly's testimony would be limited to questions concerning his actual care and treatment of plaintiff.

Dr. Kelly testified that plaintiff had a normal recovery from surgery and that he considered her progress in walking to be normal. He saw plaintiff prior to discharge and found she had no problem walking. Plaintiff was given no pain medication on the day of her discharge, although she did receive a vitamin. The medications which plaintiff received on the previous day would not affect her ability to walk or her sensory abilities the following day. In regard to plaintiff's discharge, Dr. Kelly testified that plaintiff stated her husband could not pick her up until later in the day, and Dr. Kelly indicated that this would be no problem. Dr. Kelly informed the attending nurses that plaintiff would be leaving sometime later in the day.

Dr. Kelly stated further that he had "no knowledge of how patients leave the hospital, you know, specifically -- on a specific patient." It was Dr. Kelly's understanding that the "normal course would be that somebody would accompany the patient to the . . . first floor or to the car if -- that's my understanding and has been my experience." When asked if he was familiar with defendant's discharge policies, Dr. Kelly replied: "The specific policies, no, but the normal policy . . . ...

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