Plaintiff alleges family physicians’ negligence led to husband’s death

By June 25, 2024June 27th, 2024Personal Injury

A recent court decision has reignited a medical negligence case, bringing attention to the critical role of accurate jury instructions and expert testimony in malpractice lawsuits. On June 10, 2024, Alasin Deveny filed an appeal in the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, challenging the previous rulings in her lawsuit against Lincoln Park Family Physicians and two medical professionals.

The case centers around the tragic death of Patrick Deveny in April 2011. Patrick was under the care of Dr. John Tenhundfeld and nurse practitioner Wendy A. Ploegstra at Lincoln Park Family Physicians when he suffered an intra-abdominal bleed after being prescribed anticoagulant medications for a carotid artery dissection. Alasin Deveny alleges that both medical professionals failed to properly manage Patrick’s treatment and did not provide adequate emergency instructions during critical moments leading up to his death.

During the trial, which took place in February 2022, the court granted a directed verdict in favor of Dr. Tenhundfeld, effectively removing him from liability before the jury could deliberate on his actions. The jury subsequently returned a defense verdict for Ploegstra and Lincoln Park Family Physicians. However, Alasin’s appeal highlighted several alleged errors: improper granting of a directed verdict for Dr. Tenhundfeld, misleading jury instructions, and inadequate responses to jury questions during deliberations.

Alasin’s legal team argued that Dr. Tenhundfeld should have scheduled an earlier follow-up appointment for Patrick to monitor his INR levels more closely given his high risk for bleeding due to anticoagulants like Coumadin and Lovenox. Expert witness Dr. Morris Papernik testified that had Patrick been seen on April 27 instead of April 28, signs of internal bleeding might have been detected sooner, potentially saving his life.

Furthermore, Alasin contended that Ploegstra failed to instruct them adequately during after-hours calls on April 28 when Patrick’s condition worsened. Despite multiple calls reporting severe symptoms such as vomiting with blood tinge and abdominal pain, Ploegstra did not insist on immediate emergency care until it was too late.

The appellate court and justices Pucinski, Lavin and Coghlan found merit in these arguments, particularly criticizing the trial court’s handling of jury instructions and responses to their questions about unanimity on negligence counts. The appellate judges noted that ambiguous communication could have misled jurors into believing they needed unanimous agreement on all allegations rather than just one instance of negligence.

As a result, the appellate court reversed the directed verdict for Dr. Tenhundfeld and ordered a new trial for all defendants under a different judge to ensure fair proceedings. This decision underscores the importance of precise legal standards and clear communication in medical malpractice cases where lives are at stake.

Representing Alasin Deveny were attorneys Michael Peterson and Stephanie K. Nathanson; Charles Redden defended Lincoln Park Family Physicians and its staff. The case will now return to Cook County Circuit Court under Judge Bridget Hughes with Case ID No. 2017 L 6321.

This article was first published in Cook County Record.

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