Law: My Take On Kurzman’s Case Study

March 15, 2008

One of the niceish things about being a law studnt is that, in a not-so-vailed marketing ploy, both Lexis and Westlaw give us free unlimited access to their research database. After reading Kurzman’s post about his class case study, I decided to go find the case. I believe/am assuming that the case he is referring to is:

Roberts v. Myers, 210 Ill. App. 3d 408 (Insert However you Cite Illinois First District here, 1991). Now, I’m a little unsure because Kurzman said the cas was from the 70’s and this case is from 1991, but I think its the right one. Additionally, the facts in the case happen in the late 1970’s, but the suit wasn’t brought until ten years later. Additionally, as Kurzman notes, the facts are screwey. This is due to a few things. First, there was a lot of time in between the event and the case. Next, some evidence was not allowed in at trial (no notes about why so I assume bad lawyering or this was a procedural issue dealt with earlier). Additionally, at some point entries were made on the chart incorrectly and fixed. To answer Kurzman’s first question, “the minor was born with quadriplegia and cerebral palsy”.

In my opinion, there are a few other important facts that lean towards the court’s outcome. First, Dr. Myers had staff privlidges at Rush (the hospital in question), but he wasn’t a hospital employee, his empoyer was a third party called “Health Care Specialists.”

I don’t know what this means, but you med school people might find it useful:

“Dr. Parer testified that there was no evidence that trauma was involved in the mid-forceps delivery. There was a question, although, whether the baby might have bled in-utero which would have been consistent with bleeding from a velamentous insertion of the cord. Dr. Parer testified that a velamentous insertion of the cord was not detectable prior to birth in 1977”

The expert things the damages were the result of asphyxia during labor.

Now, based on my reading, I think the physician should have been open to liability (I don’t know if he did anything wrong medically, the main claim is that he waited too long to deliver, I’m saying I don’t think he should be shielded). Here is why:

In this case, the doctor saw the patient multiple times before the “emergency.” After the woman’s doctors left, Dr. Myers performed several examinations on her during the delivery. During the first few of these, there were no issues. Later, while he was in te Doctor’s lounge, he was called because of the dips in the heartbeat. In my opinion, without any knowledge of the law, if it is you and some residents and you see a patient a few times, you are no longer providing emergency good samaritain relief. If this had been a situation where Dr. Myers, who doesn’t work for the hospital, was just walking by and some nurses grabbed him, fine, I can see the argument. If this had been a case like the main Illinois case dealing with Doctors using this exception while in the hospital (a case called Johnson v. Matvium, 176 Ill App 3d 907 (1988) ) then I could see the claim that he was just being a good doctor, but here he examined her at least three times before this emergency. From the record, it looks like the last time he saw her wasn’t exactly “normal” which makes me less doctor friendly here.

Interestingly, this case was used in Kurzman’s class to debate the ethical issues but the court doesn’t look at the ethical issues (or even the justification for the law) even once. The whole case reads like a common law “let the decision stand” case study.

Interestingly, without knowing the law, I’m going to assert that if the doctor worked for the hospital, then there would have been liability. My reasoning for this is that ther are serveral cases in tort law that I’m too lazy to look up that basically say all of the people in surgery are a “team” and not a group of individuals.

Although the doctor presumably didn’t get paid here (another fact that is unclear from the record), I’m not convinced that this was an emergency and that he didn’t know about it. I’m gonna have to say that if I was the judge, I would have gone the other way, but this case had Judge Lorenz who I believe (but am too lazy to look up) has since been promoted to the District Court and appears on some of the VERY long lists of potential SCOTUS nominees a long time from now. Basically a very able judge.

Anyway, thats my take on this case, now I need to go to bed because I have an early (7:15) flight tomorrow. I’ll post more about job searching later.

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