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Blanchard v. Murray

June 14, 2002


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Diane J. Larsen, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Quinn

Released for publication.

Plaintiff, Patricia Blanchard (Blanchard), on behalf of her son, Kameron Blanchard, filed suit against defendants, Dr. Meredith Murray, Dr. Mark Penn, and West Suburban Hospital, alleging negligence in the delivery of Kameron. *fn1 Blanchard appeals from an order of the trial court granting Dr. Murray's motion for summary judgment based on the court's determination that Dr. Murray was immune from liability pursuant to the Good Samaritan Act (745 ILCS 49/25 (West 1998)). Blanchard contends that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Dr. Murray because several genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether the Good Samaritan Act applies. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand.

On April 29, 1991, Blanchard was admitted to West Suburban Hospital (West Suburban) with labor pains. During her pregnancy, Blanchard was treated through the Chicago Board of Health at St. Anne's Professional Building (St. Anne's). However, St. Anne's closed some time before Blanchard gave birth. At West Suburban, Dr. Murray was contacted to perform a cesarean section delivery on Blanchard. During the course of the cesarean delivery, Blanchard's baby, Kameron, suffered an injury to his right ring finger.

Blanchard filed suit and in Count I of her complaint alleged that Dr. Murray:

"a. Negligently performed a cesarean section to deliver the minor, Kameron Blanchard, wherein the said minor was injured;

b. Negligently extended the uterine incision during the cesarean section too deep;

c. Otherwise fell below the standard of care of physicians of his type."

Plaintiff alleged that as a direct and proximate result, Dr. Murray cut the right ring finger of Kameron and that he suffered injury to his body and limbs both internally and externally.

In her deposition, Blanchard testified that she arrived at West Suburban on April 30, 1991, between 11 p.m. and midnight. Dr. Penn examined Blanchard and discovered that she was in labor with contractions occurring every one to two minutes. Blanchard was attached to a baby monitor and informed of how much her cervix was dilated. Blanchard testified that some time later, she was told that the baby's heart rate was dropping. Dr. Penn informed Blanchard that an emergency cesarean section would have to be performed because the baby was in distress. Blanchard testified that Dr. Murray, who to her knowledge was an on-call physician, entered the room and said that he would be performing the cesarean section.

Blanchard testified that after the birth of the baby, her first recollection was of being awakened by a nurse who told her that something happened and that Kameron had to be transferred to another hospital. Some time later, Dr. Murray told Blanchard that the baby was cut when he threw his right hand up during the course of the cesarean section.

In his deposition, Dr. Murray read from Blanchard's medical file and noted that the baby's heart rate continued to drop between 2:35 a.m. and 3:15 a.m. At 3:10 a.m., Dr. Penn called Dr. Murray at his home. At 4 a.m., Dr. Murray arrived at West Suburban. The cesarean started at 4:26 a.m. and was completed by 5 a.m. According to Dr. Murray, the progress notes stated that the neonatologist present during the cesarean section attended the procedure because of fetal distress. Dr. Murray testified that these progress notes meant that the neonatologist attended the procedure because there was fetal distress rather than "in case" there was fetal distress. Dr. Murray opined that if the baby had not been delivered by cesarean section, the delivery may have been more problematic because the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's neck.

When asked whether Blanchard's cesarean section was an emergency, Dr. Murray testified that it was urgent. Dr. Murray explained the difference between "emergent" and "urgent" care as follows:

"Q: In your opinion was this cesarean section an emergency?

A: It was -

Q: Why and how?

A: - urgent.

Q: You're using the word urgent differently than emergency?

A: I think so, yeah?

Q: Tell me the difference?

A: There are different degrees of emergency. One is - the real emergency is imminent death, that all of a sudden the heart tones go to 60 or 40 or 0, ad [sic] you got four minutes, you got to cut. You can't wait for anything. You just - like a post-mortem C-section.

Q: And the next degree?

A: The next one is its going to have to be done, and you can't wait till the regular morning schedule to do it.

Q: And is that called urgent or is that called-

A: That would be urgent or emergent. Different people could call it different things. In order to get people to come in and help you, you have got to tell them it's an emergency, otherwise they're going to say wait till morning, call me in the morning, I'm not coming. ...

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