APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIRST DIVISION
522 N.E.2d 132, 167 Ill. App. 3d 1045, 118 Ill. Dec. 677 1988.IL.314
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Richard H. Jorzak, Judge, presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE CAMPBELL delivered the opinion of the court. BUCKLEY and O'CONNOR, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE CAMPBELL
Plaintiff, Jean Slezak, special administratrix of the estate of Edward Slezak, appeals from an order directing a verdict in favor of defendant, Dr. Daniel Girzadas, an orthopedic surgeon, in a medical malpractice action. The sole issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred by refusing to qualify plaintiff's expert witness as a medical expert on the ground that he had failed to establish that he was familiar with the community standards as practiced by orthopedic surgeons in the Chicagoland area and, consequently, entering a directed verdict in favor of defendant. For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the cause for a new trial.
The record sets forth the following undisputed facts. On October 19, 1977, Edward Slezak accidently slipped and fell into an open pit on a jobsite at which he was working. As a result of the fall, Edward sustained a fracture of the right hip and was immediately taken to Lutheran General Hospital. Shortly thereafter, he was removed to Christ Hospital, which was located closer to his home.
On October 21, 1977, defendant, an orthopedic surgeon, performed an open reduction of the base or neck of Edward's femur, using a plate and screw fixation device known as a Zimmer plate, commonly used for this type of fracture. In this procedure, the surgeon drills a hole into the ball of the hip joint and the neck of the plate is placed in the hole. A side plate then runs down the outside of the femur. A compression screw tightens up and holds the two pieces of bone in anatomical position. The physician then secures the plate by drilling four holes through the bone and inserting four screws.
Edward did not appear to suffer any complications from the surgery, but remained in the hospital to convalesce. On the morning of November 5, 1977, when Edward's wife and friends visited him at the hospital, he appeared fine. However, approximately 2 p.m. that afternoon, the hospital called Edward's family to inform them that he had suffered a complication and was in intensive care. Later that day, Edward died. A subsequent autopsy revealed the cause of death to have been a pulmonary embolism.
On October 26, 1979, plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against defendant and Christ Hospital. After several amendments, Christ Hospital was dismissed and a third amended complaint was filed against only defendant. On August 27, 1986, a jury trial commenced. During her case in chief, plaintiff elicited testimony from Edward's employer, his wife and two children. As her last witness, plaintiff called Dr. Richard Laskin, an orthopedic surgeon, to testify as an expert witness as to the applicable standard of care and defendant's alleged deviation from that standard. Dr. Laskin testified, inter alia, that he is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and is chairman of orthopedic surgery at Long Island Jewish Hospital, a major teaching hospital in New York City. In addition, Dr. Laskin is a member of numerous medical societies, is a professor of orthopedic surgery at State University in Stonybrook, New York, a lecturer, and has published approximately 42 papers, three of which dealt with the management, treatment and reconstruction of fractured hips by means of internal fixation. Further, Dr. Laskin had operated on approximately 1,000 hip fractures and had written the instructional brochure for surgeons which explains how to insert the Zimmer plate.
Following testimony as to Laskin's medical credentials, the following questioning ensued:
"COUNSEL: Dr. Laskin, based on your experience as a practicing orthopedic surgeon for the past 15 years, . . . are you familiar with the community standards as practiced, customary and usual standards as practiced by orthopedic surgeons in the Chicagoland area?
LASKIN: I -- I am familiar with the customary standards in the New York area. I would assume they are the same in Chicago.
COUNSEL: New York area is a large ...