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CHICAGO DAILY LAW BULLETIN

By Lauraann Wood
Law Bulletin staff writer

A state appeals panel has ruled that jury awards for medical bills in injury cases cannot be reduced to account for the amount of bills the health provider writes off.

The opinion issued earlier this month in the Springfield-based 4th District Appellate Court addresses a long-standing debate between the state’s plaintiff bar and defense bar — which each offered their stance through bar group amicus briefs — regarding how medical bills and subsequent jury awards should be calculated.

In the underlying case, a Coles County jury awarded plaintiff Harold Miller $133,347 for medical expenses in his July 2015 medical-malpractice trial. Fifth Judicial Circuit Judge Brien J. O’Brien reduced the award by $91,724 when the defendant hospital and doctor argued that such a number represented an amount of money neither Miller nor his health-care provider had a right to recover since it was written off in his medical bills.

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Few medical situations have the ability to invoke the kind of fear and anxiety felt by patients about to undergo surgery, and for very good reason. Their life is, quite literally, in the hands of the surgeon and his or her medical team. The patient is completely vulnerable—unconscious and unaware of their surroundings and circumstances. Potential risks and unexpected surgical complications can, and sometimes do, arise. But now there is a new surgical danger that patients fear… or they would if they were aware of its presence.

The “Secret” Risk of Surgery Today

There is a secret inside of operating rooms today; it is shared among nurses, surgeons, anesthetists, and even hospital administrators but often kept from the patients being operated on. Surgeons—in an attempt to balance out the high demand for their skills and the increased pressure to earn more capital—are double-booking surgeries. Their time and attention are split between two or more operating rooms at once, sometimes for the entire duration of one or more surgical procedures, and some of the responsibilities are handed off to student residents or other attending surgeons.

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