APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT
531 N.E.2d 46, 176 Ill. App. 3d 394, 125 Ill. Dec. 867 1988.IL.1614
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. Paul E. Riley, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE WELCH delivered the opinion of the court. LEWIS and CALVO, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WELCH
This case presents itself to us on appeal for the second time, and we affirm as modified the judgment of the circuit court of Madison County. The action was initially brought by plaintiff, Anthony J. Greco, to recover damages for injuries sustained as a result of the medical malpractice of defendant, Barrett Coleman, M.D.
Plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident on or about September 7, 1973, in which he sustained numerous injuries, including a fracture of his odontoid process. Immediately following the accident, plaintiff was transported to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Granite City, Illinois, where his cervical spine was X-rayed. The radiologist who interpreted the X rays found no fracture, but because plaintiff was complaining of head and neck pain, his neck was immobilized by a cervical collar.
When, after approximately two weeks, plaintiff's head and neck pain had not subsided, defendant, an orthopedic specialist, was called in for consultation. After reviewing written notations by the nurse and plaintiff's treating physician, defendant removed plaintiff's cervical collar and manipulated plaintiff's neck through a range of motion. Only then did defendant review plaintiff's X rays. Defendant determined that the X rays showed no fracture.
Plaintiff's head and neck pain continued, and further examination by doctors other than defendant revealed a fracture of plaintiff's odontoid process. Surgery was required and plaintiff remains permanently disabled.
At trial, plaintiff claimed that defendant's failure to diagnose and properly treat the odontoid process fracture was a proximate cause of his injuries. Plaintiff's expert witnesses testified at trial that defendant was negligent in failing to recognize the possible fracture, in failing to take follow-up X rays or tomograms of plaintiff's cervical spine and in failing to review plaintiff's X rays with a radiologist in consultation. Plaintiff's expert witnesses further testified that prompt diagnosis and treatment of the fracture would have made more conservative, non-surgical treatment completely effective and would have allowed plaintiff's neck to heal with no loss of motion.
Following the first trial of this cause in April 1978, the jury was unable to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared. The case was retried in May 1981. The issue of defendant's liability was hotly contested; however, the second trial resulted in a verdict in favor of plaintiff in the amount of $32,500. Contending that these damages were palpably inadequate and against the manifest weight of the evidence, plaintiff moved for, and was granted, a new trial on damages only.
Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 306 (107 Ill. 2d R. 306), defendant filed a petition for leave to appeal from this order, arguing that the trial court had erred in granting a new trial on the issue of damages only. Defendant argued that the issues of liability and damages were so intertwined and indistinct that to grant a new trial only on the issue of damages was unfair to defendant. Defendant argued that, considering the conflicting evidence on the issues of liability, proximate cause and whether plaintiff's injury resulted from defendant's conduct or the automobile accident, a trial on damages alone would be grossly unfair to defendant. Defendant asked that this court affirm the jury's verdict or remand the cause for retrial on all issues.
Defendant's petition for leave to appeal was granted and this court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting plaintiff a new trial on damages only. (Greco v. Coleman (1985), 138 Ill. App. 3d 317, 485 N.E.2d 1118.) We specifically found that there was ample evidence at the second trial to support the jury's finding of liability and that the issues of liability and damages were so separate and distinct that a new trial on damages alone would not be unfair to defendant. We remanded the cause for a new trial "on the question of damages only."
Prior to the third trial on the question of damages, plaintiff filed a motion in limine seeking to bar defendant from introducing any evidence for the purpose of proving that plaintiff's disability was not caused by defendant's negligence. Defendant sought to introduce evidence that plaintiff's disability was caused by the automobile accident in which he sustained the odontoid process fracture, ...