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By Lauraann Wood, Law Bulletin Staff Writer

A south suburban hospital cannot escape liability in a $4.7 million judgment by labeling a doctor involved as an independent contractor, a state appeals panel ruled Thursday.

The hospital pointed to a release form signed by the patient’s son while she was in a respiratory coma acknowledging the contractor relationship. But the 1st District Appellate Court’s ruling on Thursday rejected the hospital’s notion and affirmed the wrongful-death jury verdict in plaintiff Ted Fragogiannis’ case on behalf of his mother’s estate.

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wrongful death, Illinois medical malpractice lawyersWhen a patient steps into a hospital or doctor’s office, they are trusting that provider to act responsibly. Unfortunately, recent information indicates that as many as 210,000 to 440,000 people die each year from preventable causes while under the care of a physician. A 49-year-old woman who visited the St. James Hospital of Olympia Fields in 2006 tragically met this very fate while visiting the hospital’s emergency room. With the aid of attorneys Christopher T. Hurley and Mark R. McKenna of Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C., the Illinois Appellate Court recently ruled in favor of her family, and approved of a jury’s award of  $4.7 million as compensation.

Case Details: Failure to Act Quickly during an Asthma Attack Leads to Brain Death

According to court documents, the woman was transported to the hospital by a Matteson Fire Department ambulance. Suffering from a severe asthma attack, she was grasping at her throat and unable to speak upon her arrival. Trial evidence showed it took at least seven minutes to be seen by an emergency department physician. By that time, she had begun to lose consciousness, so the attending physician reportedly told a resident physician to intubate.

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On December 31, 2015, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed a $4.7 Million jury verdict against St. James Hospital of Olympia Fields and one of its emergency department physicians on behalf of the family of a 49-year-old woman who suffered brain death in the hospital’s emergency department in 2006.

The suit alleged that on July 9, 2006, a Matteson Fire Department ambulance brought Georgia Tagalos to the St. James Hospital emergency room at 1:45 p.m. Upon her arrival at the hospital, Mrs. Tagalos was grasping her throat and unable to speak due to a severe asthma attack.

Evidence at the trial established it took at least seven minutes for Mrs. Tagalos to be seen by an emergency department physician at the hospital.  By that point, Mrs. Tagalos began to lose consciousness due to her inability to breath.  At approximately 1:56 p.m., an attending physician in the hospital’s emergency department, Dr. Perry Marshall, told a resident physician in training, Dr. Julie Mills, to intubate Mrs. Tagalos. Dr. Mills attempted to intubate Mrs. Tagalos two times over five minutes without success. Between 2:01 p.m. and 2:11 p.m., Dr. Marshall allowed four more unsuccessful intubation attempts on Mrs. Tagalos.  During this time period, Mrs. Tagalos was not receiving any oxygen, and her oxygen saturation level and pulse were dropping rapidly.  By the time Dr. Marshall requested a surgeon at the hospital to come to the emergency room and perform a successful cricothyrotomy—an emergency procedure where an incision is made to the patient’s throat to allow a tube to be passed to the patient’s lungs in order to provide oxygen--Mrs. Tagalos was nearly pulseless and had suffered brain death due to hypoxia (lack of oxygen).  She was removed from life support at the hospital on July 12, 2006.

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commonly misdiagnosed conditions, Chicago medical malpractice lawyerAccording to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), approximately one in 20 adults seeking outpatient care will receive delayed, wrong, or missed diagnosis each year. It accounts for about five percent of all patients seen annually. Though not a large number overall, over time, those numbers begin to add up. In fact, the IOM estimates that the majority of Americans will eventually experience a diagnostic error at some point in their lives. This small percentage also happens to account for 10 percent of all patient deaths.

The real problem is not necessarily that doctors misdiagnose (although this is certainly an issue); it is that, once a diagnosis is made, the doctor stops looking for one. This leads to improper treatment that, in some cases, may contraindicate with the treatment needed for the actual condition. It also leaves the actual condition untreated and, over time, that can become lethal. This can be especially true when looking at the five most commonly misdiagnosed conditions.

Heart Attacks

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dangerous toys, Holiday toys, Chicago product liability attorney‘Tis the season for remote control cars, bicycles, action figures, kitchen sets, and so much more. But how many of the toys that are purchased this holiday season present a real danger to children? World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) has recently given their list of the top 10 most dangerous toys of the season, but there may be many more.

Toy Safety Requirements

According to the Toy Industry Association, every toy sold on shelves in America undergoes some of the strictest safety requirements in the world. Some are even said to go through 100 different safety tests, standards, and certifications conducted by independent, federally approved testing labs. Yet countless toys have made it through the purported filtering system, only to cause injury or death, and then be recalled after the fact. And, even though the Toy Industry Association says that WATCH does not actually test the toys it names, parents are left to wonder just how safe the toys really are.

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FDA recall, scope cleaning machine, Chicago personal injury lawyersDoctors and surgeons rely heavily on medical devices to ensure patient safety. Unfortunately, there is an alarming number of defective medical devices out there. When physicians learn the truth, they are often disturbed and upset, but it is the patients who pay the ultimate price—with their health, their wellbeing, and sometimes even their lives. Such may be the case with the FDA’s recent recalls on nearly 2,800 Custom Ultrasonics machines.

Custom Ultrasonics’ Previous Bar from the FDA

Trusted by hospitals and medical clinics throughout the United States, Custom Ultrasonics’ endoscope reprocessing devices are intended to kill the bacteria and microorganisms found on flexible endoscopes after a procedure, enabling safe re-use of the expensive and important medical equipment.

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travel safety tips, Chicago car accident lawyersThroughout parts of Illinois, winter weather has already left more than a foot of snow. Other areas of the country are covered in ice and snow, and more winter weather is expected in the months to come. All that snow and ice places drivers are at a higher risk for automobile accidents, deaths, and injuries. Stay safe on the roads, and in your car, with the “three P’s of safe winter driving” from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Prepare, Protect, and Prevent.

Prepare for Trips

Careful planning and preparation can make all the difference when it comes to staying safe on the roads. The following are areas of extreme importance, and should be practiced by all drivers this winter:

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Megabus accidents, Chicago personal injury lawyersPublic transit is chosen by some out of necessity. Others choose it for moralistic reasons. They all come from different walks of life, and from different neighborhoods. But they all have one thing in common: they expect they are traveling safely from one destination to the next. Unfortunately, statistics on Megabus and the CTA Transit system suggest otherwise.

One CTA Accident Every 36 Hours

This past summer, a high-profile CTA crash prompted investigations by the ABC News team. They uncovered hundreds of CTA bus accidents, with an average of about one every 36 hours, and nearly 500 people injured in 2014 alone. A Bronzeville accident in which the bus crossed into the northbound lanes, hitting two parked cars and a fence; another in which a bus crashed into three parked cars and injured 14 people; and two different crashes where the drivers lost consciousness were just the highlights.

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winter weather, slip and fall, Chicago personal injury attorneyAccidental falls are one of the leading causes of injury in the United States. Colder temperatures and precipitation leads to icy driveways, sidewalks, stairways, and streets; this only further increases the risk of injury due to falls, slips, and trips during the winter months. Protect yourself from injury this season with an ounce of prevention.

Exercise Caution

When it comes to preventing slips, trips, and falls, a little extra caution can go a long way.  Whether you are on your way in or out of the house, headed for work, or simply running errands, follow these safety tips:

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crib bumpers, infant death, Chicago personal injury lawyersCrib bumpers, which have been sold in stores for decades, come in everything from simple, basic designs to patterns that coordinate with entire bedding sets. Unfortunately, these adorable bedding accessories—once thought to safeguard babies—are actually defective products that can be lethal to infants. In fact, researchers recently uncovered dozens of deaths and even more injuries. They are now calling for a nationwide ban.

The Misconception

If you ask most parents why they purchase crib bumpers, they will tell you that it is because protect babies and prevent limb entrapment between the crib bars. The stores that sell them will often recite those exact same benefits. Unfortunately, this is a commonly accepted lie that has been told in an effort to seduce parents into buying a product that is downright dangerous.

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medical test standards, Chicago medical malpractice attorneysWhen Americans go to the doctor and are at risk for an illness, they are often administered a test. Some of them have tried and true results but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently pointed out just how inaccurate, unreliable, and even potentially dangerous to patients others may be. They are now calling for stricter standards to regulate the use and distribution of medical tests. Unfortunately, those new regulations may be too little too late those that have already suffered an error in diagnosis.

The Gap Problem in Reporting Adverse Events from Medical Tests

Before a test kit can be sold to multiple laboratories, it must be reviewed by the FDA. Once it is approved for distribution, the manufacturer is supposed to report any adverse effects, such as death or serious injury that may have resulted from the use of the test. They may also be required to report defects in their products. However, these same regulations do not apply to all medical tests.

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defensive medicine, Chicago medical malpractice lawyerAccording to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, medical malpractice costs in the United States amount to approximately $55.6 billion each year. The majority of this money ($45.6 billion) is spent on defensive medicine—care that does not further diagnosis or treatment and is intended only to reduce the risk of a medical malpractice claim. But does this methodology really work, or are physicians simply driving up the cost of healthcare? A recent study published in the medical journal BMJ may have an answer.

The Critics’ Case Against Defensive Medicine

Despite estimates that between half and two-thirds of all U.S. doctors use defensive medicine, there is almost no evidence supporting its use. Critics of the practice also point out that a substantial fraction of medical malpractice claims actually stem from communication issues, and many contain no medical error whatsoever. And, although diagnostic errors are the leading cause of malpractice claims, most are said to be attributed to cognitive or system errors rather than a lack of resources.

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arbitration, consumer rights, Chicago personal injury lawyersDeveloped to protect Americans from government corruption, the Bill of Rights has afforded us with many freedoms. Yet, behind the scenes, Wall Street companies are silently stripping away some of those very same rights with their muddy legal jargon, intentionally deceptive practices, and carefully planted arbitration clauses. Unfortunately, most Americans are unaware of such practices. It is not until they are completely blindsided that they realize just how much corporations are taking advantage of them today.

How the Legal Landscape Has Changed

Comprised of individual plaintiffs that have banded together, class-action lawsuits are meant to force corporations into admitting their wrongdoings (or, at the very least, paying for their mistakes). They give individuals an effective and low-cost means with which to challenge ill-behaving corporations with seemingly endless resources. Unfortunately, class-action cases have become almost non-existent now that companies have found a way to work around them with arbitration clauses.

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diagnostic errors, Chicago medical malpractice attorneyProper treatment for a medical condition hinges on a correct diagnosis, but the wrong diagnosis can be a death sentence. Valuable treatment time is wasted. Conditions may worsen. And, in some cases, the wrong treatment can be dangerous. Unfortunately, the misdiagnosis of medical conditions happens all too often—a lot more frequently than most people realize.

Diagnostic Error Statistics

According to the study from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), diagnostic errors (inaccurate or delayed diagnoses) touch five percent of all Americans seeking outpatient care each year. Postmortem examinations reveal that those errors contribute to approximately 10 percent of all patient deaths, and a review of patient medical records suggests that such errors could be responsible for up to 17 percent of all adverse events in hospitals. However, what is most concerning about all of this is that, for the most part, diagnostic errors have not gone largely discussed and are highly underresearched.

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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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Compartment Syndrome, Chicago medical malpractice lawyersCompartment syndrome, a serious condition that causes increased pressure in the body’s muscle compartments, can be caused by even minor trauma to any part of the body. Its consequences, which can take hold quickly, can be devastating if not properly addressed by medical professionals. Indeed, in many cases, it is only their suspicion of the condition and prompt treatment that have the ability to save a patient from permanent and potentially fatal side effects.

Understanding Compartment Syndrome

Within any given muscle group, one will find thick layers of tissue, called fascia, separating it from the other muscle groups. Inside of each layer of fascia, there is a confined space, called a “compartment,” and within each one of those, there are blood vessels, nerves, and tissue. Swelling within the compartment, usually caused by injury, will place pressure on the internal parts and, if allowed to build up enough, blood flow to the compartment will become blocked.

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stair injury, Chicago personal injury lawyerHome to approximately 2.7 million people, Chicago is a city full of life, culture, and picturesque skylines. But there is a personal injury threat hiding inside the city’s skyscrapers, complexes, and tall buildings. It is one that many Chicagoans encounter on a daily basis, but rarely ever discuss or think about: stairs.

Whether it is a part of your daily routine or something that looms in the hidden halls, waiting for the day an elevator stops working, stairs are found in a large majority of Chicago’s buildings. Governed by building codes and city codes, one would think that stairs are relatively safe; they have been around for centuries, after all. Nothing could be further from the truth, however.

Alarming Stair Statistics

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medication errors, Chicago personal injury attorneysSurgical intervention—be it lifesaving or elective—is a dangerous business. Unexpected emergencies, postoperative infection, and delayed healing are just a few of the possibilities that are commonly discussed with patients. However, there is one risk that is not largely discussed, despite the fact that it may be one of the most commonly experienced: medication errors.

The Real Risk of Perioperative Care

Because medication mistakes during perioperative care (immediately before, during, and immediately after a procedure) are mostly self-reported, experts have long suspected that the numbers are much higher than those on record. A research group from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has now proven it with an analysis of 277 randomly selected operative procedures.

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DUI deaths, Chicago drunk driving injury lawyersAccording to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, drunk driving costs the United States (and its taxpayers) more than $132 billion each year. Higher insurance and tax rates, even for those not driving under the influence, time and gas expenses for traffic congestion, and long-term medical bills of those severely injured are just a few of the factors involved in that cost. Probably the most devastating cost of all is the lives lost to drunk driving.

Nearly one-third of all automobile deaths involve a drunk driver, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Mothers Against Drunk Driving says that drunk driving crashes cause one death every 50 minutes. And an emergency physician with the University of Michigan Health System says that each drunk driver will make about 80 trips under the influence before they are stopped—either by the police or because of an accident.

It is clear that we must do something, not just because of the damage that drunk driving is having on society and our pocketbooks, but because of the devastation that it is causing American families, each and every day. Most efforts have only been reactive, but a recent analysis suggests being proactive in the approach by installing sobriety tests in all new cars, not just in those that belong to convicted DUI offenders.

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Kia gear shift recall, Chicago defective autoparts lawyerIn a year in which vehicle recalls have hit record numbers, Kia issues its fifth one for the year. This time, the South Korean automaker is recalling 377,000 vehicles because of gear shift defects that can cause the vehicle to roll away or cause an accident. So far, there have been three injuries from the defective car part, but no reported deaths.

Too Much Pressure Reportedly Causes Gear Shift to Break

According to the press release issued by Kia, the gear shifts crack if they receive too much pressure. Once cracked, the vehicles can then shift out of gear on their own. Vehicles affected by the recall include all Kia Sorentos manufactured from 2011 through 2013—a total of 377,000 vehicles.

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