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Hallowell v. University of Chicago Hospital

September 06, 2002

DANIEL HALLOWELL AND CAROL HALLOWELL, INDIV. AND AS CO-SPECIAL ADM'RS OF THE ESTATE OF AMY HALLOWELL, A MINOR, DECEASED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO HOSPITAL, A CORPORATION, D/B/A WYLER CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL; J. DEANE WALDMAN, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.
DANIEL HALLOWELL AND CAROL HALLOWELL, INDIV. AND AS CO-SPECIAL ADM'RS OF THE ESTATE OF AMY HALLOWELL, A MINOR, DECEASED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
MIDWEST PEDIATRIC CARDIOLOGY, P.C., A CORPORATION; OTTO G. THILENIUS, AND THOMAS E. BUMP, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Sharon J. Coleman, Judge Presiding. No. 94 L 16986

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Reid

Released for publication September 16, 2002.

DANIEL HALLOWELL AND CAROL HALLOWELL, INDIV. AND AS CO-SPECIAL ADM'RS OF THE ESTATE OF AMY HALLOWELL, A MINOR, DECEASED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO HOSPITAL, A CORPORATION, D/B/A WYLER CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL; J. DEANE WALDMAN, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.
DANIEL HALLOWELL AND CAROL HALLOWELL, INDIV. AND AS CO-SPECIAL ADM'RS OF THE ESTATE OF AMY HALLOWELL, A MINOR, DECEASED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
MIDWEST PEDIATRIC CARDIOLOGY, P.C., A CORPORATION; OTTO G. THILENIUS, AND THOMAS E. BUMP, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Sharon J. Coleman, Judge Presiding. No. 94 L 16986

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Reid

PUBLISH

Following a jury trial, a verdict was entered against defendants the University of Chicago Hospital, a corporation, doing business as Wyler Children's Hospital (Wyler's), and J. Deane Waldman, M.D. (Dr. Waldman), for the wrongful death of Amy Hallowell. The jury also found defendants Midwest Pediatric Cardiology, P.C. (Midwest), Otto Thilenius, M.D. (Dr. Thilenius), and Thomas E. Bump, M.D. (Dr. Bump), not liable. The jury awarded the plaintiffs, Daniel and Carol Hallowell (the Hallowells), $8 million in damages. These two consolidated appeals followed.

In their appeal, Wyler and Dr. Waldman assert the trial court erred when it denied their motions for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (judgment n.o.v.) or a new trial. In particular, Wyler and Dr. Waldman contend the trial court improperly granted the Hallowells' motion in limine that barred Dr. Waldman from testifying about a telephone conversation in which Mrs. Hallowell allegedly informed another Wyler employee that Dr. Waldman was no longer going to be Amy's physician.

On appeal, the Hallowells argue the trial court erred when it denied their posttrial motions for a judgment n.o.v. or a new trial as to Midwest, Dr. Thilenius and Dr. Bump. The Hallowells maintain there was overwhelming evidence introduced at trial which proved that Dr. Thilenius and Dr. Bump failed to follow the standard of care when they neglected to recommend or to provide the Hallowells with information concerning the possibility of Amy receiving an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD).

For the reasons that follow, we affirm the decisions of the trial court.

THE FACTS

On May 20, 1992, nine-year-old Amy suffered a cardiac arrest while participating in a swim meet. After being removed from the swimming pool, Amy was found to be in a state of ventricular fibrillation. Paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillated Amy's heart.

After being resuscitated, Amy was taken to Wyler, where she was treated by Dr. Waldman, a pediatric cardiologist, who eventually became Amy's attending cardiologist. An electrocardiogram (EKG) revealed that Amy had abnormal heart rhythm patterns or heart arrhythmias. Amy was also found to have very low potassium levels, the ultimate cause of which was never ascertained. Dr. Waldman was able to determine that Amy's heart was structurally normal by using an echocardiograph, which is an instrument used for diagnosing heart abnormalities.

On June 9, 1992, Amy's charts indicated that a nurse, an endocrinologist, a resident and a pediatrician observed that Amy experienced heart arrhythmias. However, at trial, Dr. Waldman testified that he did not believe that Amy experienced arrhythmias. Amy's potassium levels were also checked and were found to be normal. When Amy was discharged on June 10, 1992, Dr. Waldman had not determined the cause of her cardiac difficulties and did not prescribe any medications.

On June 24, 1992, a Holter monitor study was performed on Amy. The study revealed that Amy was experiencing arrhythmias. Her potassium levels were determined to be normal. At trial, Dr. Waldman admitted that in a deposition taken prior to trial, he stated that he felt that as a result of the Holter monitor study, Amy's condition was recurrent rather than a single isolated event. At this time, Dr. Waldman initially prescribed Inderal; however, Amy was eventually switched to Verapamil.

In March 1993, Amy's mother, Mrs. Hallowell, sought a second opinion from Dr. Thilenius, a pediatric cardiologist who was an employee of Midwest. Dr. Thilenius performed a general physical examination and listened to Amy's heart. His findings were normal. Dr. Thilenius did not have any further contact with Amy until December 1993.

In October 1993, Dr. Waldman had Amy undergo a stress test. The test results did not indicate the etiology of Amy's arrhythmias. Dr. Waldman also recommended that Amy undergo an electrophysiology (EP) study and an ablation procedure. Dr. Waldman suggested that Dr. Bump perform the procedures. Dr. Bump is a cardiologist with an expertise in electrophysiology, which is the study of heart rhythms.

The Hallowells were familiar with Dr. Bump because he had previously treated their nephew for a similar condition with the same or similar procedure. Dr. Bump sought the involvement of Dr. Thilenius for the EP study, which was performed on December 29, 1993. After performing the test, the doctors were still unable to locate a ventricular source for Amy's abnormal heart condition.

On April 29, 1994, Amy became dizzy while taking a shower and collapsed. When the paramedics arrived, they found Amy in ventricular fibrillation due to cardiac arrest. ...


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